Friday, August 14, 2015

The Fine Art of Writing by Carrie Stuart Parks

Carrie Stuart Parks

From what I’ve seen, similar lessons and challenges are experienced in most artistic endeavors. My daughter (singer and actress) and I can relate to a number of things involved with pursuing our chosen fields. I think it’s also common for writers to have more than one gift in the arts. Take for example, our own Seriously Write team members. Check out Angela Arndt’s amazing pen and ink drawings.  Annette Irby has musical gifts—she plays instruments, writes, and sings. Today, author Carrie Stuart Parks shares how she used what she learned as an artist to become a better writer.   
~ Dawn

The Fine Art of Writing

I’ve been a watercolor artist for the past forty-six years, which is astonishing considering I just turned twenty-nine.  Ah, hum, yes, well . . . As a watercolorist, I did very well, garnered awards, sold a ton of art, was in a number of galleries, and my work was purchased by major corporations. I illustrated magazines articles, painted CD covers, worked on books, and even wrote a how-to paint portraits in watercolor for North Light Books-one of five books I wrote and illustrated for them. I’ve taught watercolors at every level of learning. I’m sharing this because when I started writing fiction, a mere 11 years ago, I found a lot of parallels between writing and art. And I found an astonishing difference. 

Let’s start with the difference. If you were in my class, drawing a portrait for example, I’d insist you be looking at a photo of that person you wanted to illustrate.  If I came by to help you, I could point to the photo, then the same area of your art, and talk about why your image was off. The nose was too long, the lips too small, or the hair looked like brown dying worms. You’d be able to easily see why your sketch needed correction. Both drawing and photo are visible to you and me. Drawing is all about learning to see, not what you think is there, but what is really there.

When I started writing, everything was in my head: the rich setting, snappy dialog, thrilling action, memorable characters. I felt my first writing efforts were astoundingly brilliant. I blissfully sent my early work off, expecting a phone call begging to represent, or publish my work. I was crushed when the call not only didn’t come, but my work was ignored, rejected, and/or refused.

What’s the matter with these people? Couldn’t they see my profound writing there on the page? No, they couldn’t, because it wasn’t on the page. Nor could they see into my mind to clearly show me why there was a vast gulf between what I believed I communicated and what I actually wrote.

So began my odyssey of learning to write. And here’s where the parallels occurred between art and writing. When I painted, I used Arches 140 weight, cold pressed paper, Daniel Smith watercolors, two primary brushes: a #8 round and a Winsor and Newton series 995 1” flat, and painted the same subject five, ten, twenty, fifty times. I wanted to commit to memory just exactly what the paint, paper, water, lighting, subject, brush, and technique would do so I wouldn’t have to THINK about it. I knew automatically that my brush had too much water in it by the feel, the paper was too wet or two dry to get the effect I wanted by the appearance, exactly what Quinacridone gold would look like if I mixed it with Anthraquinone blue. Pretty obsessive? Maybe, but I wanted to learn my craft. Once each part of painting was second nature, I could focus on creating that work of art.

Learning to write, I would take apart the writing process and study each component: ending a chapter on a hook, tension on every page, dialog, setting, and so forth. I would attend writer’s conferences, buy and consume writing books, take on-line classes, participate in critique groups, and worked exhaustively with my mentor, Frank Peretti. Each part of writing, like each part of painting, needed to become second nature so the story would shine.

May God Bless you on your writing journey.

A killer with a penchant for torture has taken notice of forensic expert Gwen Marcey . . . and her daughter.

When Gwen Marcey’s dog comes home with a human skull and then leads her to a cabin in the woods near her Montana home, she realizes there’s a serial killer in her community. And when she finds a tortured young girl clinging to life on the cabin floor, she knows this killer is a lunatic.

Yet what unsettles Gwen most is that the victim looks uncannily like her daughter.

The search for the torturer leads back in time to a neo-Nazi bombing in Washington state—a bombing with only one connection to Montana: Gwen. The group has a race-not-grace model of salvation . . . and they’ve marked Gwen as a race traitor.

When it becomes clear that the killer has a score to settle, Gwen finds herself in a battle against time. She will have to use all of her forensic skills to find the killer before he can carry out his threat to destroy her—and the only family she has left.

Carrie Stuart Parks is an internationally known forensic art instructor as well as FBI trained, Certified Forensic Artist. She worked for the North Idaho Regional Crime Lab for years before going freelance. A winner of numerous awards for her innovative teaching methods and general career excellence, she is also a signature member of the Idaho Watercolor Society. Carrie’s debut novel, A Cry from the Dust, was sold at auction in a three book deal to Thomas Nelson. She was mentored in her writing by NYT best-selling author Frank Peretti.

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  1. Love this post, Carrie! I know what you mean: we want, no, we're led to create something from nothing, just as our Father did.

    Love your watercolors! That's something I was never able to master. How wonderful that you're using your ability to imagine to write as well! And thank you so much for this post. It was such an encouragement.

    (And thanks for the shout-out, Dawn!)

    1. You're welcome! I love your work, Angie. :-D

  2. Carrie, I loved your first book and an eager to read this one. Isn't it cool that we get to create whole new worlds?


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