It’s our first interview on the podcast! Rene Gutteridge is a professional writer with 24 novels published traditionally, one of was turned into a Hallmark movie, and multiple screenplays, including her latest, Family Camp, which is in theaters now. Join us for a conversation about writing, accountability and an introduction to Writing Moments.
Episode 19 Transcription:
[00:00:13].920] - Chris Hey, welcome to the The Writing Momentum Podcast. I'm Christopher Maselli and I'm here with my wife Gena. Gena, how are you doing? [00:00:20].770] - Gena I'm doing pretty good. I'm so glad to be here. [00:00:23].850] - Chris Wait a second. There's someone else in the room. [00:00:27].200] - Gena I know. We're so excited to have our good friend Rene Gutteridge here. She is coming on to answer some questions. It's the first Writing Momentum interview that we're going to be doing, and we're just thrilled she's here. [00:00:40].210] - Chris Hey, that's momentous. How are you doing today, Rene? [00:00:43].160] - Rene I'm doing fantastic. I mean, this is so much fun. This is breaking up like the monotony of my day just out with friends. So love it. [00:00:56].390] - Chris That's cool. Now you're coming from Oklahoma. This is also our first intercontinental. Is that right? The right word podcast because we're talking over the miles, which is kind of cool. [00:01:07].730] - Rene Well, yes, that's so fun that we are in the technological age that we can communicate via whatever we're communicating over, I guess the internet. [00:01:20].690] - Chris All right. So, Gena, I know you've got some questions prepared that you want to ask Rene because you are like the interview Queen, so you got to get us started. [00:01:28].950] - Gena Well, this is so cool for me because even though Rene and I have known each other for a while, I haven't necessarily heard her story of how she got started in writing. So, Rene, tell us about your journey to becoming a professional full time writer. Where did it start? [00:01:47].030] - Rene Well, it started very young. I would give credit to my mom for forcing me to go to the library over the summer. My friends were going to the pool and white water, and I was going to the library where we were earning the Dairy Queen cones. I don't know if you guys got every ten books you read, you got a Dairy Queen ice cream cone. But that began my love for books and stories more specifically. And then I was just a kid that wrote I wrote all the time and created stories. My parents bought me an Apple computer early on when they were really pretty brand new. And I wrote stories on those. And so I just kept going. It never occurred to me to stop or that it was silly or that I shouldn't keep doing it. However, it didn't really occur to me to do it for a living until I got to college and I had a professor tell me, hey, you're pretty good at this. Have you thought about doing this? And that was about the time I was going to switch my major from broadcast journalism. This is so silly to even say it out loud, but I basically was all into going into the FBI, and you have to see me in person to know what a hilarious joke that is. [00:03:26].890] - Rene But I do like investigations, and I think I had a mind for it. But God was thinking that's probably not a good choice. So he intervened. And from there, I just began studying it seriously, how do you really get published? And I kept writing. And actually in college, I was studying screenwriting, not fiction writing. And my last semester in college, my writing professor said, hey, why don't you try writing fiction? And I was not that interested in it. It was so many words, but I did it and then got interested in publishing books and went to writer conferences, talked to authors, got on the internet, studied how to do it, and just started that journey on trying to get published. So it was published at the age of 26. My first novel, Ghost Writer, came out then and just kept going. [00:04:28].810] - Chris Yeah, it certainly kept going because now you have 24 novels, right. And you are an award winning author. You've got one of your novels turned into a Hallmark movie. You've written multiple screenplays. And your latest, Family Camp, is in theaters now, right? [00:04:44].510] - Rene That's right. It opens today. [00:04:47].090] - Chris Wow. That's cool. Yeah. And it's a comedy. It's a comedy for the whole family. [00:04:52].340] - Rene That's right. Family friendly comedy. We're really excited about it. And 900 theaters across the United States. [00:04:59].990] - Gena That is so exciting. So this really is a momentous day. Not only are you on Writing Momentum podcast for the first time, but your Family Camp movie, the movie Family Camp isn't. So, hey, it's a great day already. [00:05:18].420] - Rene It is. It's so funny because it's such a huge day, but also I'm working at my desk. Right. The movie is going and it's going to go do its thing. We've celebrated with the premiere and the Oklahoma screening, so I've gotten to see it, but now everybody else gets to see it. So I've been getting texts today and a lot of fun things. People are letting me know that they liked it. [00:05:49].700] - Gena And I think that's one of the things about writing that people have to be prepared for when they want to do this is that the work happens a long time before you see the finished product that comes out. So when did you write Family Camp? When were you working on that project? [00:06:07].950] - Rene So we were writing that around beginning 2018, finished 2019 and then Covid hit. So that was the delay in filming, but we were able to film in 2020. [00:06:27].930] - Gena So you're talking four or five years. [00:06:30].970] - Rene Five years, right? Yeah. [00:06:33].630] - Gena From the start to when it's actually coming out. And that's shorter. From what I have learned about screenwriting, that's actually shorter than most scripts get from the point that they're written to the point that they're actually produced and released. I know. I learned that that can be years. [00:06:57].390] - Rene It can be. We had a situation. This is a movie through the Skit guys, Skit Guy Studios. So the Skit Guys already have a huge following. And so when it was time for us to, we believe, make a movie, the pieces fell into place. And much of that is because they had a huge following. And it was easy to imagine for studios that people would come see this movie. So it's a little different than if I were to write a movie on my own and then try to sell it to a major studio. That certainly can take years and years and years and years. So this is a little different situation where I am a writer that comes into a group of people that are already established and works within their company to get the movie made. [00:07:58].350] - Chris It is interesting, though, how long some things like this can take, because I think a lot of writers who are starting off today, they're used to the idea that if they have an idea and they want to write about something, they can type it out on a blog, hit publish, and it's out there for the world to see. Right. We can even self publish books that once we finish writing them, we hit a few buttons on Amazon and we have a self-published book available for the world instantly. And yet sometimes, especially when there's other companies involved in that, it can take a lot longer because I know with novel writing, it was always like that, too. If you had to go through a traditional publisher, it's not something that would happen in a couple of months. It's something that would happen over a couple of years. And that's just the publishing process in addition to the writing process, right? [00:08:49].410] - Rene Yes, that's exactly right. I've always been traditionally published. Self publishing wasn't really even an option when I started. But as long and arduous as it can be, I also really believe in the process of traditional publishing because it does put you through the fire. It does put your work through the fire by the time it gets to the place that either in terms of Family Camp or any other movie where you're spending a lot of money or the book publishing process where the company is spending a lot of money betting on your product, it better have gone through a lot of hands and been scrutinized. And, you know, by the time it comes out, it is really the very, very, very best it can be. And those long stretches of working on that, working on that, working on that. I mean, Family Camp, I think I counted, I don't know, upwards of about 20 drafts of that on my computer. And it's the same for novels, too. Those go through so many drafts, just making it better and better and better, which then in turn makes you a better writer. I learn every time I work on a project. [00:10:04].790] - Rene And I've worked on besides my novels and a countless number of scripts and other projects I learn and I learn and I learn and learn. I get better and better, which is extremely fun. I think that's the fun part of writing is you're never going to get there, right? You're never going to be like, yeah, I finally made it. [00:10:26].640] - Chris I'm the best, which is funny because I think a lot of writer have been drawn to the self publishing world because they don't want to have all the red tape and they don't want to have people telling them how they need to change their books. There's a story I tell about one of my books when I first wrote it that I submitted to the publisher and they came back and said, yes, we love this, but we want you to change who the main characters are and what the plot is. Right. And so I had to rewrite the whole thing. And that's not something that would have happened in a self publishing world. I never would have had those checks and balances, and I wouldn't have had a marketing department looking and making sure that I was including certain things and all that, which can be a downside sometimes because it can change your work a bit, but it really can be a good checks and balances to make sure that you do have something that is sellable and that reaches maybe a broader audience. Is that what you're saying? [00:11:26].550] - Rene Yeah. Well, first of all, if you go through traditional publishing, you have a lot of war stories that are really fun to tell. I mean, I have so many rejection stories that are just amazing, but it also makes you understand you're climbing this huge mountain, and every time you get a little further up, it's immensely satisfying that you have passed the test and your work has passed the test through editors and salespeople and marketing people and anybody else that has a voice into it. And you get to this place where all of a sudden you pass all the tests and then it's there, and you know when it's going out to the public that you couldn't have worked any harder on it. And the people the other thing about it is in both sides of screenwriting and fiction writing, there are extremely talented people behind the scenes who are working to make your work better. And sometimes when you're going into writing, you're sort of fearing the editor, right? You're like, oh, my gosh, they're going to rip my book apart and all this. And I just always encourage people. I promise you, your editor is going to be your best friend. [00:12:46].270] - Rene Your editor is the one who is going to make sure that you don't put your book out half naked or whatever, that you've got your copy editor and your line editor and your macro editor and all of the people who are working on your behalf to make you look really good. So I would say you shouldn't fear the editor. They're going to be a good friend. [00:13:11].280] - Chris Yeah. [00:13:11].590] - Chris It's in their best interest to make sure that your book succeeds. Right. They're not your enemy. They're trying to help you get that published, and they want it to succeed because it helps everyone along the way. [00:13:25].290] - Rene Absolutely. I've had the pleasure of working with some of the best editors in the business, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. They have taught me so much that I am where I am today because of them. [00:13:42].720] - Chris Yeah. Okay. So now you're also a writing coach, though, too, right? You help other writers in your coaching. So how do you find when you're on that side of the equation that things work? Because in that case, it's like you're the editor. [00:13:59].910] - Rene Well, I am the editor, but I would say a little more than that or a little different role because I'm trying to bring out the writer. And oftentimes when people are hiring a writing coach, they're still learning their voice and their strength. Like, what am I good at? What am I bringing to the page that other writers aren't? And I can see that more than they can see. It's very easy to just kind of get in the weeds in your own writing and not necessarily be able to see where your strengths are. Although I am pointing out the weaknesses, I'm also working hard to draw out the strengths and point out to the writers, hey, you may not know this, but you're really great at these really quicky pieces of dialogue, or you're really great at stringing me along and then just stabbing me in the heart with emotion or whatever. And they begin to see like, wow, I am good at this. And you start seeing them implement that into their writing. And it's just very fun to watch a writer blossom that way. And then eventually, I am not an editor. I wouldn't ever say that I have that talent. [00:15:23].790] - Rene So eventually their book would go on to be edited by a real editor. But in the process, I can do some types of editing. [00:15:34].740] - Chris Yeah, I guess it depends on how you define editor. Right. Because when I think editor, I'm thinking of someone who's helping you overall, like a content editor, get from point A to point B. But there are different kinds of editors, too, that help with all those major details. [00:15:49].170] - Rene And a lot of the time the writer is the one that is pushing along the content, and then I'm helping them shape and think through. Okay, if you do this here, what are you going to do there and let them think through all this? Because many times the people who hire me have never actually written a full book. And so they began to see how many plates are actually spinning when you're writing a book. And there's a lot of them. So I just helped them keep those spinning plates going and point them out as we go well. [00:16:25].040] - Gena Rene, you are so good at. I know. I've heard you speak at writer's conventions and at Writer Con, especially. I've heard you speak in Oklahoma City. But what's something that you like to share with newcomers? That's something that they don't realize when they're thinking, I think I want to do this. I want to write a book, or I've always wanted to write a book. We hear that a lot. I've always wanted to write a book, and they want to get into that world. What's something that you like to share with them about that? [00:16:59].010] - Rene Well, my number one piece of advice has always been big butt in chair. You have to sit and you have to write. And people realize very quickly whether they actually want to be a writer or not, because it does take an enormous amount of time by yourself. You and the white page just writing, and either you plow through or you get freaked out by your own abilities and you abandon it. You know, I also have to really encourage people to I think people think that I sit down and I write my first draft of my book, and it's brilliant. The first draft of my books and scripts are train wrecks. [00:17:51].750] - Chris Wait, what? [00:17:53].040] - Rene Yes. [00:17:54].690] - Chris I don't believe it. [00:17:55].820] - Rene I know I do not come up with all the clever twists and turns in the first draft. It's typically a bad first draft, but I have to get something on paper. You have to sit down and you have to get something on paper. And people really get inside their own heads and begin to talk themselves out of it just because it's messy. So those are the two big things people have to overcome. They have to sit down, and then they have to stay there, despite how messy the draft is. [00:18:27].870] - Gena Oh, I'm sorry. [00:18:28].620] - Chris No, go ahead. [00:18:29].700] - Gena I think there's a point at which and I'm working on a project. And full disclosure, I'm working with Rene right now on a project. She is my writing coach. I'm working on my first novel. So as she's talking, I'm like, yeah, there's the butt in chair thing, because novels are not easy. They are the toughest thing I've ever written, and I've written books. But this is just on a whole another level because there are all these spinning plates that you have to keep thinking about. But I'm just listening to her talk, and I'm realizing many times she has said, just keep going. Just make yourself a note. Keep going, keep going, keep going. And it is a big old mess. [00:19:20].420] - Rene It's a beautiful mess. [00:19:22].930] - Gena But I think the more you get into it, that's when the fun comes, there's a point at which it's a lot of work, but then there's a point at which it really is like a muscle that you are working, and it becomes easier to do the exercise. At first, you're kind of working to lift the five pounders. And as you're going. It's like, okay, now you know what? These ten pounders don't feel so bad or these 15 pounders, Dang, I've never done that before. And it becomes more fun the more you do it. But you cannot do it without the whole butt in chair thing and just slogging through the sludge of the first draft. Really? [00:20:11].540] - Rene Well, that's a great analogy, Gena, because it really is. We talk about how I know this is hard right now, but pretty soon it's going to be muscle memory. And you're not going to have to think about even not necessarily you. But others I've worked with, they don't exactly even know how to put dialogue in. So every time they're writing a chapter, they have to work so hard to remember how dialogue is formatted. Right. And once they get past that, they begin to have more and more fun because they're not having to remember these things. They're learning them and they're learning them and they're learning them. And that really takes working on a manuscript every week. It's very hard to write if you're not writing every week. If you're putting three or four or five weeks between when you've last written your chapter, that muscle memory is going to be lost to the five pound weights. [00:21:09].670] - Gena Yeah, exactly. Well, and I'm excited because we are looking in next month, we are going to begin something special. And just to let our listeners know, Rene has agreed to help us with this and to be a part of it. And that is with writing moments. We're going to begin them in June 2022. And these are going to be co-working sessions online where we're going to come together. And for an hour, we are going to be writing together. But the first ten to 15 minutes are going to be mini teachings that either Chris or Rene and I are going to do. And then we're going to have about 45 minutes to 50 minutes of us just writing together. And so we're looking forward to that. And just having our listeners be able to join us on that Zoom call. And I say Zoom call. It may not be Zoom. It may be another format. [00:22:14].240] - Chris It will be like a Zoom call. But yeah, it's going to be really fun because we talked about when you're talking about having butt in chair and this muscle memory, this is the kind of thing we need to forge that muscle memory, make it happen. And so, yeah, we're going to be meeting on essentially a weekly basis, and we're going to be sitting down for an hour. We'll have a small teaching portion from one of the three of us. And then we're just going to start exercising those muscles and we're going to write together over Zoom. We're all going to put it on mute. We're not going to be talking at that point. And we're just going to be there accountable to each other. So that'll be super fun. I'm really looking forward to that. [00:22:51].280] - Gena Yeah. And then in the fourth week, what we're planning on doing is we're going to do the butt in chair writing moments for three weeks. And then on the fourth week, we're going to open it up for a question and answer, and all three of us will be there. And we will be taking questions throughout the month that any writers have. And then on that fourth week, we will be answering them. We'll also be again on a Zoom type call. We're not quite sure yet if we're going to use Zoom or we're going to use another media, another software, but it's going to be that same type of thing. And we will also have the chat open to have people ask questions, and we will answer them. Our whole purpose with this is just to help people make that momentum, start building that momentum on their writing, whatever it is. And it doesn't have to be a novel. It can be if you're wanting to start a blog and you just need to write it weekly, you want to release a blog every week. That can be what you're working on. It can be a nonfiction book. [00:23:56].370] - Gena It can be your memoir. If you're wanting to set up your marketing machine, you can do that as well. So it isn't just about writing your novel. It can be about any type of writing that you're wanting to do. [00:24:12].990] - Chris That's right. Well, Rene, thank you so much for joining us today. This has been a momentous occasion because you joined us, Family Camp is out now, and we're going to be doing more stuff in the future, which is going to be lots of fun. [00:24:27].410] - Rene Well, thank you all for having me. I love hanging out with you guys. You're super fun, and I love talking about writing. So it's a good day. [00:24:36].350] - Chris All right. Well, hey, if you enjoyed this podcast, please rate, review, subscribe and share it with someone. Let them hear what you've been using to help give you Writing Momentum. And until next week, this is Chris, Gena, and Rene saying may all your writing have momentum.