Learning by Going, by Caryn Larrinaga

Everyone loves a good ghost story and with October lurking just around the corner I thought it was a brilliant idea to bring on a friend who has mastered the art of spooky. Today I’m thrilled to share a wonderfully insightful article written by the talented and imaginative Caryn Larrinaga.

Learning by Going

by Caryn Larrinaga

Table of Contents for Fey Sidhe

Many years ago (don’t ask me how many; I’m in denial), I had to put together a notebook of poetry for my high school creative writing class. Looking back, I’m a little in awe of myself. Not because of the quality of my poems—they were exactly the kind of thing you’d expect a lovestruck sixteen-year-old to be writing—but because I had the balls to put my own work next to the likes of e.e. Cummings and Theodore Roethke… and an awful lot of lyrics from Delerium’s Poem album. Fitting, right?

Cover of Fey Sidhe

Much as my own poems and the choice to name the collection “Fey Sidhe” make me cringe a little bit (I was obsessed with elves and fairies… okay, fine! Am obsessed with them), this hand-bound notebook is my favorite souvenir of high school. Teenaged Caryn, though a terrible poet herself, had pretty decent taste, and some of the pieces I chose to include had a lasting impact on me, especially the opening stanza of Roethe’s “Waking.”

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.

I learn by going where I have to go.

The Waking, by Theodore Roethke

I love those three lines, especially the last. I learn by going where I have to go. It’s similar to the “zen driving” idea Douglas Adams came up with in the Dirk Gently books (which I also love). The idea that we can have destinations in mind but not really know where we’re supposed to end up until we start taking the journey… it’s something that’s resonated with me as I’ve bumbled through my adult life, and especially as I’ve bumbled through my writing.

Some writers are super organized and plot their books thoroughly. I try to do that with everything I write. I chart out the beats, working backwards from the ending, and jot down a few sentences about what each scene needs to do for the story.

Then I start writing, and that’s when I really figure out where the story is going. Most of the time, I deviate from my plot a lot, especially in the meaty middle part of the book. With short stories, things weirdly go even more off the rails (you’d think fewer words would give me fewer opportunities to deviate from the plan, right?).

This combination of plotting and flying by the seat of your pants is lovingly referred to as “plotsing” in writerly circles, and for me, it makes the writing journey so much more fun. I don’t feel like any of the words I end up throwing away are wasted; they all gave me some much-needed experience and were opportunities to get to know myself a little bit better.

Writing, just like any art, is something you can’t get better at just by reading books and soaking up advice at conferences and conventions. In the end, you actually have to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and start making words. It’s one of those things you can only learn as you go, putting your fear of failure aside as you grow and improve.

So plot… or don’t. Make plans… or don’t. Either way, you’ll learn by going (and writing) where you have to go.

Don’t let that twinkle in her eye fool you, Caryn’s got some deliciously dark stories hiding inside her.

About today’s guest author:

Caryn Larrinaga is an award-winning mystery, horror, and urban fantasy writer. Her debut novel, Donn’s Hill, was awarded the League of Utah Writers 2017 Silver Quill in the adult novel category and was a 2017 Dragon Award finalist.  

Watching scary movies through split fingers terrified Caryn as a child, and those nightmares inspire her to write now. Her 90-year-old house has a colorful history, and the creaking walls and narrow hallways send her running (never walking) up the stairs. Exploring her fears through writing makes Caryn feel a little less foolish for wanting a buddy to accompany her into the tool shed.

Caryn lives near Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and their clowder of cats. Visit www.carynlarrinaga.com to claim a free ebook and audiobook!

Connect with Caryn:

Be sure to check out the first book in the award-winning Soul Searchers Mysteries series, Donn’s Hill. I hear the sequel, Donn’s Shadow is due to come out the end of October – so much win!

About Donn’s Hill –

Mackenzie Clair needs a fresh start. The death of her father and a broken relationship rendered her old life unlivable. What better place to build a new one than Donn’s Hill, the most haunted town in America and her favorite childhood vacation spot?

But returning to Donn’s Hill awakens more than nostalgia. As memories resurface, so does a lost psychic ability to talk to the dead… a power the poltergeist haunting Mac’s apartment is eager to use. 

Aided by her new roommate—a spirited Tortoiseshell cat named Striker—and the ghost-hunting crew of the Soul Searchers, Mac struggles to control her newfound talents. She’d better get a handle on them fast, because someone in town is hiding a deadly secret. If Mac can’t divine the truth, Donn’s Hill will never be the same.

First in a new series, this cozy paranormal mystery was the 2017 winner of the League of Utah Writers Silver Quill award. “A genre-bending gem of a book, cozy meets horror meets cat fancier in a unique town of psychic tourism and ghostly secrets.” -Johnny Worthen, award winning author of THE FINGER TRAP, THE BRAND DEMAND and WHAT IMMORTAL HAND

Find Donn’s Hill, and Caryn’s other books, on Amazon!

Even better, if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can get this title for free!


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