On Being An Organic Writer

Since August of last year I’ve been working my way through Stephen King’s DARK TOWER series. I started the final book last week and will post a general review of the series once I’m finished. That aside, in book #6 we meet Stephen King himself. Yes, he’s made himself a character in his own book. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but what I did enjoy was getting another glimpse into his mind as a writer and how he works.

Since reading his other book “On Writing…” many years ago, I’ve felt a certain distant kinship to King. We’d always been taught in school that you need to outline your whole story before you begin, that you should know ahead of time what the climax and resolution is going to be. How can you get to the end if you don’t even know what the ending is going to be? It seemed to makes sense at the time, but I always struggled with outlining in school. My characters sometimes didn’t want to fit into the plot I’d constructed nor did they like when I reigned them in. I was cramping their style.

King, I learned decades later, doesn’t generally outline. He has a premise and an inspiration and off he goes. His characters tell their stories and as I felt towards my characters over my many years of writing as well, King’s characters take over. We are but the scribes who write at a feverish pace, doing our best to put down what they are telling and showing us. I liken it to watching a movie you’ve never seen before and trying to write it all down as it plays. I’ve discovered other writers who work in the same way and from one of them I learned the term “Organic Writer”.

All of my erotica titles were written in this way. The opening scene was usually crystal clear. I sometimes had an ending in mind, but everything in between was driven by the characters as they rambled on  in my ear and showed me everything they wanted me to see. People look at you weird when you tell them that’s how you write. The whole voices-in-your-head thing seems a bit crazy, right? It probably would be if I didn’t listen and didn’t write it all down. I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen all that far in advance and if I do, it’s only because THEY have whispered it to me.

I ran into trouble when I decided to quit writing the erotica and switched to my true love of the supernatural, horror, and murder-mysteries. I wrote my first mystery, THE SECRET WELL, when I was ten. Writing SECRETS OF THE SCARECROW MOON was a whole lot harder. I’ve read a lot of murder-mysteries, but writing one in my traditional Organic Writer way wasn’t ideal.  Every suspect needed a secret. Every suspect needed an opportunity. Every suspect needed a motive. Every suspect, save for the killer, needed an alibi. I had to know all that in advance which wasn’t easy when the guilty party didn’t want to give up any of that information! I was finally able to wrestle it out of them about half way through the book which meant I had to go back and fix a few things once I knew what was really going on.

I learned a lot from “…Scarecrow Moon” and  THAT’S WHAT SHADOWS ARE MADE OF proved easier. I knew who did it right from the start. I lined up my suspects and gave them each a secret right off the bat. All I had to do was remain within the confines of that information and then I let them lose. There was still a lot I did NOT know, but it was enough of a mystery to me to also be surprised sometimes at what happened next. In fact, one suspect showed up that I hadn’t planned on which made it even more fun.

NO REST FOR THE WICKED isn’t a murder-mystery, though there certainly is (was) a fair amount of killing going on, nor is DARK HOLLOW ROAD. In fact, at the moment I don’t have another murder-mystery in the works, but in doing those that I have, it’s truly been a great learning process and I’ve grown to appreciate the premise of an outline to help you along. I’d still rather have my characters running amok and telling me what’s next on their own. It’s amazing to sit back after pounding out a few thousands words and saying to yourself, “Huh, I never saw that one coming!” If I didn’t see it coming then surely the readers won’t and that’s a good thing. I like the surprises and the weird twists and turns things take.

The folks down on DARK HOLLOW ROAD have been pretty quiet lately, but I sense them starting to whisper again. That’s a good thing. It’s been too long since I’ve escaped into the strange, paranormal, and taboo-infested world they live in. I’m eager to get back there to see what happens next, just as eager as I am to get back into Stephen King’s world of The Dark Tower.



Catching Up With The King

One of the greatest requirements of being a writer is also to be a reader. I’ve always been a huge reader. My earliest hard-core reading memories involved Nancy Drew Mysteries. I was ravenous for books by Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, Wilkie Collins, Dickens, Peter Straub, Ellery Queen, Ray Bradbury, and then there was the King; The King of Horror, Stephen King.

In middle and high school I devoured one Stephen King book after another. Every year for Christmas or my birthday I’d be gifted the latest King novel. My god, how that man took me away into his worlds of bizarre and divine darkness. Very few understood my passion for King. “Don’t those things give you nightmares?” was a common opening line when someone found me curled up somewhere with my nose buried in the likes of “Pet Semetery” or “The Stand”. Never, ever, did reading King give me nightmares. His words were fuel to my writer’s soul. I wanted to be the next Stephen King. Hell, if I could write even half as good as him, I’d be one happy camper.

Then something odd happened. Once I was out of high school and trying to make my way in the world, I read less and less, King included. Maybe it was because I was now a working stiff. Maybe I was too busy being a wife and mother. Dr. Seuss and Winnie The Pooh took over and before I knew it a good twenty years had passed. The new and wonderful worlds of Stephen King became lost to me. Where had I left off?

Late in 2013 and into 2015 I started to play catch-up with King. I met Gerald and witnessed his horrific game. “Delores Claiborne” stepped in to say hello. I entered “Black House” and learned “Lisey’s Story”.

Reading became a passion again. I needed to read as much as I had always needed to write. Every book, King or not, became inspiration. Between bouts of visiting the King-dom there was Tanith Lee, Hunter Shea, and Scott Westerfeld to fill the gaps, but King was always the goal.

In August 2015 I started King’s Dark Tower Series. I remember knowing when the first book came out back in the 1970s. I’m not sure why I never picked a single one of them up! Now, I’ve worked my way through the first four books of the seven part series, having only just started the 5th last week, “Wolves of the Calla” and even picked up a copy of “The Wind Through The Keyhole” yesterday. It seems to be some sort of side book to the original seven books. It’s a good start, I’ll grant you, but even with having read four Dark Towers and “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” in 2015 alone, I’m still not even half way through King’s bibliography that I lost in the world of my own life.

Time to read, time to write, time to live my everyday life; Time to raise my children and enjoy the company of friends, time to be with family as often as I can.

I may never catch up with the King. It’s taken me fifty years to get as far as I have. I doubt I have another fifty in me to complete the task, but I’m going to try my damnedest.