Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Met The Most Interesting People

"Have you ever been compared to the Paula Deen of the writing world?"
"No," she laughed, "But I'll take it."

Kaki Warner was one of the most delightful people I met at the Crested Butte writer's conference. There are times it would be nice to own the home next door and keep it as a guest cottage. If I were in that financial bracket, this is one woman I'd love to have move in and stay for a very long time. She made me laugh, and she really knows her craft. Her writing craft.

There are two types of writers, basically. One type plans everything out painstakingly before ever setting down a word of the actual story on paper. They know from first to last exactly what will happen. The other type of writer sits down with the characters all yelling in her head and lets them tell their story through her as it unfolds. Kaki and I both fall within that latter category.

As an aside, let me say that my characters woke me up for months before I was told that if I didn't write their story nobody else would. Melissa Mayhue said that to me when I went to one of her book signings. I wasn't planning to try because I'd never written a novel before. Why would I have to nerve to think I could be a novelist, just because I'd written all my life? I'd never written anything that long.

Now, back to Kaki. She was giving one of the workshops when a hand shot up. The question related to how much time or attention she gave to outlining each novel before beginning the first draft. She replied, "What's an outline?" or something like that. Then she explained that she doesn't tell her characters what they're going to do—they tell her. She said she got half way through one book and was starting to write something when her hero told her, "I can't do that. I'm dyslexic!" She said, "Well, why didn't you tell me that at the beginning of the book?"

She said she occasionally has to go back and fix things, since her characters don't always explain themselves up front. That's what "pants-ers," as those of us who write by the seat of our pants are called, pay for the creativity we get in return for allowing our characters the freedom to react to the flow of the story. We get a character-driven plot, rather than plot-driven characters.

I liked her. I understood my own writing style better, and felt the importance of her answer. I had been ashamed to admit that I didn't outline and plot each chapter. It was the reason I would have an eight page chapter followed by a two page chapter. It was what the characters needed.

The only problem with meeting someone like Kaki is that I now have three new books (signed, so they won't be carted around on our trips) that I want to be reading. Well, I'm world building right now, so they're waiting. Books are so patient.

God, please grant me another twenty years to write, and then fifteen more just to read and blog.


Kaki said...

WOW! Thanks of the kind words, Kathleen. I sure sound smart, don't I? HA! I'm so glad you got something out of the workshop. I'd hate for anyone to think the way they did things was wrong. And I'm so excited about all the great attention your work got from the editors and agents. Now all you have to do is...DO IT! And please don't take 25 years like I did. I'm so happy to have met you, and I hope I see you there next year. Keep me posted on how your WIP is going.

Dean K Miller said...

I'm a listener/follower as well. I've got plans for my characters, but often they don't follow through. I wish I had that much gumption in my own life!

But I do have an "outlined" outline, mostly due to the fact that my WIP is written from 5 (currently) POV's.

Even though they keep me up some nights, I still love what they have to say.

John Paul McKinney said...

Sounds as though you had a wonderful time. I'd love to hear what the editors and agents had to say. Keep us posted.

Brian said...

Hi Kathleen,

I like your site, you have some interesting posts. My site compliments yours, consisting of interesting articles from a published author, and a free writers yearbook with over 1000 book publishers currently accepting submissions. Keep up the good work.

Regards, Brian