On The Writing Process by Fiction writer Kenzie Millar
Today we hand over to 'Of Myths and Mothers' anthology writer, Kenzie Millar, to get us inspired about the writing process!
Ironically, my writing process involves a lot of not writing. Something you may recognise yourself, or not. Something I really dislike is any prescription about how people should write. People are varied and the only right way to write is to learn what is right for you.
I have tried writing at different times of the day, I have tried writing daily, I have tried writing sprints. For me, personally, I can really only do my best writing in a café or somewhere similar. I need the buzz of people around me, somehow it helps me to focus. Because of this, the pandemic was a bit of a writing slump for me. It was also the time I was working on my dissertation for my Creative Writing Masters: a short story collection. Luckily, I found it possible (though not easy) to edit at home. However, I still needed one more story in order to reach the required word count.
And this is where the not writing comes in. I spent a year thinking about the story that was to become Pass Through The Waters, now published in Of Myths and Mothers. I had the initial spark, a gender swapped version of the selkie folktale, and I thought about it. Initially, I thought about the story set in contemporary times with a character who owned a bookshop meeting the selkie. I also spent a lot of lockdown listening to podcasts, and one of my favourites is Bonnets at Dawn which originally started by pitting Austen against the Brontes (#TeamAusten). This made me think how my idea could also be an interesting exploration of women during Regency times, especially those relationships historically and publicly seen as close friendships but which may have actually been something more.
And then coffee shops re-opened! I ventured in to Manchester City Centre (a strange mix of those wearing masks and those who had obviously remained in their “normal" lives). I met fellow Fly on the Wall writer, Louise Finnigan, at the café we had spent many Sunday mornings chatting and writing. Louise and I met at Orton's Writer's Circle, a wonderfully supportive writing group where I've met some amazing friends and writers.
That Sunday, I wrote Pass Through The Waters. And though I did spend some time after editing, it was as close to a right first draft as I've ever written. People may of course disagree, and wish I had changed some parts, but for me the story was what I wanted it to be. The reason I could write it so smoothly, so easily? Because I hadn't written it for a year. I had thought about it, and worked out things in my head that usually I would be working out on paper and in countless drafts.
When the story was accepted by Fly on the Wall, a year later, I had made only minor line edits. The bones of the story remained. And similarly, working with FotW to get the story ready felt so easy. There were some questions around motivation that I realised I had left too much in my head and weren't actually on the page, but again those additional scenes were easy to write because I had already imagined them. I knew how these characters would act in certain situations , and why.
The “moral" of this story, because as someone who writes of folklore and fairytales I need to have a moral. Write how you write, even if that means not writing sometimes. Some people will write everyday and their word counts may seem intimidating. But if that doesn't work for you and your life, do what does work. There are endless ways for stories to come together, and that story is the only thing that matters. Not how you tell it.
You can purchase 'Of Myths and Mothers' here or grab a copy in person/online from your local Waterstones, Blackwells or indie.
Kenzie is currently thinking about a cli-fi story about population control, and another about the darker side of fairy godmothers.