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Chekhov’s Gun, My Personal Arch- Nemesis

Hello friends and welcome to another fun filled edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.

A few weeks ago I was thinking about why I have the tendency to write really thin, why my descriptions are always lacking, and why I struggle so much with world building. I made a comment on someone’s Twitter thread about these issues, and another user pointed out that my style of writing might by better suited for screenplays. 

Then it hit me: she was exactly right (that I don’t actually want to write screenplays is neither here nor there).

Much of my teens and twenties could be defined by fandom. The friends I made and the activities we enjoyed were predominantly informed by whatever I was Into at the moment, especially as a teenager. As I grew into adulthood, moved away from home, and started a family, the way I enjoyed fandom, by necessity, shifted to largely online interactions and communities. It was during that time period I got really into meta-analyzing my favorite TV shows. TV was my preferred media at the time and I spent much of my considerable free hours engaging with it. 

One of the key principals when analyzing TV (and other shorter form media) is that of Chekhov’s Gun. The idea being that in one hour of scripted television, a screenwriter has roughly forty three minutes in which to tell a story (accounting for commercials). Meaning that there simply isn’t enough time to go into detail about anything that isn’t going to directly contribute to the narrative. If the writers are using precious seconds and minutes showing you something, it’s for a reason. It’s important. 

Obviously, this is not so with novels. In fact, in many ways it’s completely the opposite. While it would not be prudent to bog down a manuscript with too much detail, since books lack a visual component it makes describing the characters and world in depth essential. Whereas on a TV show time needn’t be spent telling me a character’s eyes are brown because I can see them, taking a sentence or two to do so in a novel helps bring a hazy mental image into focus. 

I mean, this sounds obvious, even to me, as I’m typing it all out but, genuinely, in the moment when I am drafting I completely forget about it. Because, in my mind, my character’s eyes being brown has absolutely no bearing on the story, so why should I waste time mentioning it? 

I completely blame my years in fandom, my many hours meta-analyzing TV when I should have been reading instead, for this. I wish I knew how to shake it off, but hopefully simply being aware of the bias will help me correct it going forward. That and reading. A hell of a lot more reading. 

In short, Chekhov’s Gun can to go to hell. 


Time for a Mental Health Check In. 

This last month has been a rough one for me. I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life, at least three different major issues to manage – any one of which would be stressful enough to deal with on its own – all while going back on my meds to try and get my anxiety and depression under control. It’s not been fun, and I’ve struggled a great deal at times (including this very week) to remain productive during my writing hours. 

To be totally transparent, it’s fucking sucked. And there’s no way to couch that. It just blows to feel like this all the time. I know I’m going to make it, I have amazing support, but I urge everyone to just check in with their friends once in a while. It makes such a massive difference when you’re down the rabbit hole to know that someone is thinking about you. 


Well, that’s enough out of me for this week. I’ll (hopefully) be back next week with more profound and/or frustrated thoughts on writing conventions I’ve conveniently forgotten since high school. Until then, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.

Kerry Share

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DFWCON Recap

Okay so, for those who don’t follow along on my Twitter, this weekend I had the privilege of attending my very first writing conference. I’m not sure what I expected, and I was more than a little nervous, but the experience was absolutely invaluable. LET’S TALK ABOUT IT.


A Natural Introvert In a Room of 400+

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I, like many other writers, am a natural introvert with a degree of social anxiety. I find it very difficult to start conversations in most situations. Yet, one of the most surprising things about this weekend was 1) how easy I found it to talk to people and 2) my regret on Sunday evening that I didn’t manage to talk to more people. It turned out that after my initial anxiety was surmounted, I had a thousand questions I wanted to ask everyone I came across.

Is this your first time? Where are you from? What do you write? Is it finished? Are you pitching? Who are you pitching? What else is in your back catalog? What writing program do you use? Pantser or plotter? What classes are you going to?

It got to a point where I almost wish I had a microphone and a podcast to blame my incessant interrogating on. But, I couldn’t help myself. It was the first time I had the opportunity to be around other writers. It was so nice to be able to talk about things like word count and genre nuance with people who get it, and that relief was the biggest factor in overcoming my anxiety.


Classes, Lectures, and Panels, Oh My!

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I was telling people by the end of it all that my brain felt like a sponge that had absorbed as much water as it was physically capable, and all I wanted to do was get home and squeeze it out all over the page.

There was so many great classes to choose from that I was driven into a panic because I couldn’t actually pull a Hermione and go to all of them. I will say I came away just a little disappointed, not in any of the classes or presenters themselves, but in my own inability to streamline what I wanted to get out of the conference. I bounced around from topic to topic based on a whim, whereas I felt I probably would have gotten a lot more out of it if I had really considered what would be the most useful to me at this precise moment in my writing career. Oh well, lessons for next time.


Community

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This really goes without saying, but the writing community is rad. It just is. I mean, I knew that before the conference, just based on how welcoming and supportive the online space has been. But for an introvert with social anxiety, moving those interactions into the physical realm came with new bunch of questions and fears. Sitting amongst all those fellow aspiring and successful authors, I found myself often wondering if I even belonged there. I don’t have a completed manuscript (first draft notwithstanding), I don’t have a back catalog, I’ve never queried or pitched. At 31 years old, I have as much (or less!) experience as an 18 year old.

And yet, no one ever made me feel that way. Even as I admitted, somewhat shamefaced, that I only just finished my very first first draft but a short two weeks prior, I was greeted with congratulations and high fives, even from some who had 12 books under their belts. It never felt condescending or placating, but spoke to the universal truth that writing is hard and in that little conference center, we really were all in it together.


All told, I left on Sunday creatively invigorated. I couldn’t wait to get back to the page. I had a hundred thousand ideas I wanted to get to and I still found myself pushing for more. I felt even more determined to make this the year I start treating writing as a job so that one day it will be my actual job. I found myself wishing there could be a conference once a month (my wallet would never survive) just so I could soak myself in that determination any time I felt low.

Thank you so much to the DFW Writers’ Workshop for putting on such an amazing experience. I’ll definitely be back next year.


That’s all from me this week. I’ll be back next week, probably with that previously promised post (how’s that for alliteration?) about Writing For Yourself. But! If you lovelies have any ideas for some topics you’d like me to tackle, be it authors behaving badly, craft, or even how the weather affects my writing, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me a message on Twitter.

Until then, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.

Kerry Share

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