Friday, September 18, 2015

Growing as a Writer by Gail Kittleson

Gail Kittleson

One of the things I like about being a writer is that I’m always challenged to learn and improve my craft. Because of that, I believe I’ll never become bored with the process. Author Gail Kittleson believes in growing as a writer, too, and she offers encouragement to do just that. ~ Dawn

Growing as a Writer

A year ago, I discovered a natural stain remover that doubles as a spider killer—that’s what hooked me. And last week, a friend enlightened me on dispelling weeds. Plain vinegar spray. And Google taught me the Borax and sugar ant trick.

It’s great to learn—isn’t that why we’re still here?

What’s easier than spreading one part Borax to one part sugar around anthills? These antidotes sat right under my nose for so long, and sometimes, the same holds true for writing. Often, a skill from instructing college expository writing works for fiction, too. Okay, with some tweaking.

Take outlining. What a pain, although a clear outline produces a brilliant essay, no doubt about it.

But in fiction writing, an outline lurks far from my mind. A new, incredible character turns their charm on me, and I’m a goner. They precede me down rabbit holes and waste precious time.

After following them through several women’s fiction manuscripts, something dawned on me. From the story’s back side, the order became clear ... the outline, if you will. And my labor the last three or four times through amounted to paring away excess—scenes with no place in the outline. Yep.

I don’t know if I’ll ever start off with a story outline. So far, one has never come to me—it’s a matter of plunging in and moving ahead. But then along came Dottie.

Yes, a character dear to my heart—a WWII gold star mom who also lost her husband near the war’s end. Her challenges working at a boarding house and her widower neighbor’s sudden interest in her produced far less wayward scenes. It was as if she held a flashlight to the outline every step of the way.

Interesting that Dottie’s pitfalls and triumphs make up my debut novel, In This Together.

The outline lives in her personality, her backstory, and ties everything together. This magical merging makes Dottie’s story sing. And you guessed it—all those previous novels have yet to find a publishing home.

I still had to “Kill a few creative literary babies” in Dottie’s story, but that doesn’t bother me anymore. The story question—will Dottie allow her intrinsic gifts to overcome long-established fears and embrace second-chance-love?—guides me now.

Perhaps that story question is the outline’s close cousin.

A few years back, I heard Angela Hunt describe her clear outlining strategy, and envied her organizational skills. But little by little, I’m getting there. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll sit down and outline a masterpiece requiring only a few solid edits.

Sometimes it’s a matter of discovering a new use for a familiar tool, as with vinegar, Borax, and sugar.

What have you learned lately about fiction writing? Please share, because you never know what reader might benefit, no matter how long they’ve been at this!

In This Together
In This Together

(Available soon!)

After World War II steals her only son and sickness takes her husband, Dottie Kyle begins cooking and cleaning at the local boarding house. The job and small town life allow her to slip into a predictable routine, but her daughters and grandchildren live far away, and loneliness is Dottie's constant companion when she's not working.

Al Jensen, Dottie's long-time neighbor, has merely existed since his wife died. Al passes his time working for his son at the town's hardware store. However, he still copes with tragic memories of serving in WWI. Being with Dottie makes him happy, and their friendship grows until, for him, love has replaced friendship.

When Dottie's daughter has health issues, will Al’s strength and servant's heart be enough to win Dottie's love and affection? Can Dottie's love for her family enable her to face her fear of crowds and enclosed spaces and travel halfway across the country to help the daughter who so desperately needs her?

Our stories are our best gifts, and blooming late has its advantages—the novel fodder never ends. Gail writes from northern Iowa, where she and her husband enjoy gardening and grandchildren. In winter, Arizona’s Ponderosa pine forests provide relief from Midwest weather and a whole raft of new people and stories. Gail’s memoir, Catching Up With Daylight, paved the way for fiction writing, and she’s hooked for life.

You can learn more and connect with Gail here: