Voices in My Head

I left Midwest Writers Workshop feeling, as always, eager and excited to write write write.  And then… I didn’t.  I got back to my running and biking (and even did some strength-training – owie).  But the writing thing didn’t happen for that whole week after.  In fact, it wasn’t until yesterday that I even opened my manuscript.  I wanted to write, but I cringed at the thought of opening the manuscript file.  There were so many things running through my head from MWW15 – changes to make, revision ideas, thoughts on theme and characters.  It was overwhelming.  Then I remembered one of the great panels from MWW15.  Julie Hyzy talked to us about the voices in our heads.

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As writers, part of our job is to listen to the voices.  However, that doesn’t mean we want to listen to every voice.  We don’t, for instance, need to listen to the nagging voice of the inner critic when we’re working on that first draft (and this goes double if, like mine, your inner critic sounds like your mother).  We don’t need to hear the voice of our critique partner, because as much as that person might intend to help, she doesn’t necessarily share the vision for your story that you have (Julie recommended not sharing your work with a CP until that first draft is finished).  We don’t need to listen to our inner procrastinator, nagging us to wash the dishes or mop the floors or do the laundry.

not listening

We do need to listen to our characters.  We’ve got to let them talk to us, tell us what it is that they want to do and, sometimes more importantly, what they won’t do.  We need to hear them and if we can’t, it could be a sign that we’re trying to force them into something that doesn’t fit them.

writers

The point here (yes, I do have one) is this.  I heard a lot of advice at MWW15.  It was great.  It gave me a lot to think about.  It also gave me a lot of voices in my head.  I mean, A LOT.  All those voices were drowning out my characters.  They were drowning out my voice.

don't panic

I heard a lot of tips and tricks at the conference.  Julie Hyzy talked about locking yourself away from everyone with a timer and giving yourself 30 minutes to just write.  Finding that 30 minutes wasn’t working for me this time.  What did work was letting those voices shout themselves out.  I didn’t fuss about not writing (much).  I went on my runs and my bike rides.  I started reading a new book.  I gave myself some space and finally I am back to a place where I can listen to my characters and move forward again.  And this is, I think, the ultimate lesson of Midwest Writers Workshop.  You can (and will) hear a lot of writing advice but in the end, you have to do what works for you.  If you don’t know where to start then yes, by all means, give someone else’s method a try and see if it works for you.  But don’t be surprised or upset if it doesn’t.  We’re all wired differently and there’s no one-size-fits-all writing process.

Magna Cum Murder XX

The twentieth Magna Cum Murder conference took place this past weekend, October 24-26th.  I was fortunate enough to be there, and I had a great time.  If you’re a fan of crime fiction or think you want to write your own, I can’t recommend this conference highly enough.  It is a wonderful gathering of authors, fans, and writers.

On Friday my husband and I gave a panel on ghost hunting in real life.  We had a great turn-out for what was the first panel of the conference and we had some great questions at the end.  We were approached by people all weekend who wanted to share their own ghost stories with us, which was great fun.  This was my thirteenth year volunteering at Magna and my fourth or fifth year doing a panel.  I still get geeked out when an author comes up to tell me he or she enjoyed our panel!

There were many great panels to attend at Magna, as there are every year.  I can’t do them justice in a re-cap here, but there was one comment made by one of the authors which really stuck with me and that I want to share.  He was on a panel called “The Clark Kents” and each of the writers had a “day job.”  They were discussing how they balanced that day job with their writing.  Several authors were early morning writers, another tries to use his lunch hour (but can’t get his boss to leave him alone – oh how I can relate!), and others worked later in the day.  One of the authors, a morning person, jumped in to point out that there is no magical formula for a writing schedule – we each need to pick out what works for us. That really struck me.  So often it feels like we are asking authors about their writing schedule because we are hoping to find a magic formula for writing.  This author I admire works on this schedule so if I imitate him, I’ll be able to succeed too.  But the fact is, there is no magic formula.  Morning work might work great for several of the authors I admire, but that doesn’t mean it will for me.  I am not a morning person and I never have been (from birth, folks – I was born at 3 in the afternoon).  Instead of trying to imitate someone else’s writing schedule, I need to find one which works for me.  We all do.  So by all means, ask the authors you admire about the schedule you use, maybe even give it a try, but don’t feel like you’ll never make it if you don’t follow their schedule.  In the end the goal of your asking and experimenting should be to find what works best for you.