Saturday, June 14, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

Huzzah! I've been tagged for a blog tour about my personal writing process. Thanks to bestselling novelist, Jill Eileen Smith, for the tag. And be certain to check out her newest release, RACHEL, book 3 in her Wives of the Patriarchs series. She brings out the humanity and the drama in the familiar biblical stories, making them feel exciting and new!

Anyway, on to the questions . . . .

What am I working on at the moment?

At this particular moment, I am working on galleys for Golden Daughter, which is swamping my week. Actually, by the time this posts (it's scheduled for a few days from now!), I hope to have those done, though. Keeping my eye on that light at the end of the tunnel . . .

I just finished the revisions for Draven's Light, my upcoming 2015 novella. I'm in the process this week of watching the cover design for that project as well. Oh, my! What a  gorgeous cover this is going to be! Very excited.

And on Monday, I hope to start the MASSIVE revisions necessary on my new work-in-progress-about-which-I-am-not-yet-speaking. The story is right on the very verge of really coming together, but it's going to need those revisions in order to truly shine!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, these days the major difference between my work and other fantasy is my use of the omniscient narrative. It's amazing, though, what a difference in narrative choice can make! By using the omniscient narrative, I am able to bring in many more characters and threads in a compact amount of word count. This narrative also gives my work more of a classic, throw-back feel, since this is also the narrative used by favorite fantasy novelists, Tolkien, Lewis, and George MacDonald. But I try to use this old fashioned narrative in a contemporary style, such as the brilliant Sir Terry Pratchett and always-inventive Neil Gaiman use in their works.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what I write because it's also what I love to read. I love the omniscient narrative. I love complex worlds and interlinking story lines. I like books with a touch of romance that never interferes with the real drama of the plot. I like characters who aren't supermen or superwomen, but real people caught up in supercircumstances (if you'll pardon my coining a new word there). I love the challenge of trying to blend a sense of classicism with modern-day tastes and styles. I love my characters. I love my stories.

Seriously, I cannot imagine not writing what I write!

How does my writing process work?

Okay, this is what happens when I write a book. I don't know if it's a process . . . certainly not one to be emulated! But it's what happens for me when I write a new novel.

I get a seed of an idea. This is usually a good year, sometimes many more, before I'm going to actually write it. (Though my new project came to me only a month before I started writing it, which might be a record.) I will pound out a few sentences in a document somewhere about this seed of an idea. Then I'll forget where I put that document and never look at it again.

But the seed sits there in my brain. And eventually it begins to grow.

As it grows, a variety of new ideas concerning that seed grow with it. These I do not write down. Not yet. I let them swim around in my brain (oh, dear. What a mixed metaphor! Swimming seeds?) for a few months or years. The good ideas thrive and grow. The bad ones shrivel up and die. I'm pretty ruthless. I don't write anything down unless it's survived this stage of brewing. And it will often surprise me which ideas make it to the writing-it-down stage and which do not.

When the time approaches for me to write that particular novel (and this has nothing to do with, "Oh, I'm inspired to write it now!" It's entirely a matter of, "Oh, this is the next one in the timeline of my world! Yikes!"), only then will I open a new file, title it whatever the working title for that project is, and start writing. (This is after a fruitless search for that original note I made and lost somewhere. But who knows where I put that? Oh, well. It probably wasn't much good anyway.)

I start writing by simply pounding out all the ideas still swimming in my brain. There is no order to this. No rhyme or reason. Sometimes I can't see how certain ideas can ever POSSIBLY fit with others! But there's always some unconscious part of my creativity that sees a connection, so I stick with it.

After I've pounded out all the ideas, I start shuffling, shifting, deleting, and adding. Connections eventually begin to present themselves to me. In the case of Golden Daughter, the main character herself, Sairu, emerged at this stage and created all the connections necessary for the ideas to work. In the case of Shadow Hand, I realized that I couldn't bring Eanrin and Imraldera into the story until Part Two, and that made all the other story connections work.

Once this stage is complete, and I have a document that roughly details how all those swimming ideas create something cohesive, I build an outline. This is a detailed outline . . . often extremely detailed! It takes me hours to create, even days.

And then I don't really follow it.

I mean, I do follow it. But an outline and a story are not the same thing. What looked good in outline form might completely stink in book form! So the outline is very flexible. It's there to keep me on track (no rabbit trails for this cookie! Wow. Another odd metaphor.), but it's not there to constrain me. It also details how these stories fit with other stories, so I don't lose those threads along the way. At this stage in the game (about to start writing book 8 in the series), keeping track of those threads is important!

Once the outline is complete, I start drafting the opening. This is usually where the agony sets in. Openings are completely devilish for me! Absolutely appalling. I usually have five different possible openings in mind going into it, and I often have to try TEN until I find one that works. These stories are so complicated, finding the right place to start them is ridiculous.

But once the opening comes together, the rest of it starts to fall into place. That doesn't mean there isn't other agony. Rough drafting is, for me, a laborious process. Which is why I usually try to rough out my manuscripts as quickly as possible. Two to six months is the norm for me, even for my longest works. Golden Daughter, my longest work by a long shot, was begun in April and finished in October--but that was with that weird sickness knocking me out every month or so for two weeks at a stretch. Not to mention quite a bit of travel thrown in there too, which interrupted everything. So it took me a little longer. Still, not a bad pace.

Once the rough draft is done, I expect the whole thing to be utter garbage . . . but then I read through it and usually find that it's quite good. Needs help. Needs revision. But it's basically quite good. Revisions are then fairly pleasant to accomplish . . . though, in a weird sort of way, I kind of miss the horror of drafting. As much as I hate drafting, it's also tremendously exciting. Revisions, by contrast, are not as challenging and, therefore, not as interesting. (I know, I just can't be pleased!)

My favorite part of the whole process: calling it done. Ah, the relief!

And then, of course, it's not done. It still has to be looked over by editors, polished, perfected, tweaked, and read, and reread, and reread, and reread, and reread, and reread (are you seeing a pattern here?), and reread . . . until I absolutely hate it. Just before the book releases, I make a solemn to NEVER READ THAT BOOK AGAIN.

A vow which I honor . . . up until the Christmas Read-Along comes around. Then I read it with all of you. And by then, I don't hate it so much anymore.

So that is the gist of my writing process. What do you think? Ready to try it for yourselves? (Don't. Seriously. Spare yourselves.)

 And there you have it! The end of my part in this tour. I am tagging Morgan Busse (author of the acclaimed Followers of the Word fantasy series), and Rachel Starr Thomson (author of . . . seriously, SO MANY exciting projects. And she puts them out amazingly fast. Once you discover her, you'll be set on reading material for AGES!)

They will be posting their features and tags sometime next week. So be certain to go check out their blogs! And you might as well check out their books while you're at it. Book 1 in Morgan's series is called Daughter of Light, and Rachel just released a new novel called Abaddon's Eve.

So now I'm curious . . . what does YOUR writing process look like? Does it vary per book, or do you see a pattern?


Unknown said...

That is so interesting! : D My writing process is complex and thoughtful. It goes: 1. Have an idea. 2. Get so excited by aforementioned idea that I sit down and strenuously pound out a story based on that one idea and very little else. 3. Decide I hate it. 4. Decide I will love it if I only change this one little detail. 5. Repeat steps three and four for about a year.

It's not the most efficient method, and I am striving to change it-- namely, making myself hold on to the ideas for much longer before I start writing. I might steal your method of outlining; it sounds just what I need! : D

Morgan L. Busse said...

Wow, your writing process is so much like mine! In fact, I'm just going to copy and paste what you wrote here ;)

Glad to know I'm not the only one who hates her story after the sixteenth reread. The words start swimming across my vision and I feel physically sick. Bleh!

Unknown said...

My writing process is quite similar! Which may be why I have such a difficult time finishing stories--by the time I'm through my very long, laborious outline (one outline I made for a NanoWriMo novel was about 50 pages long--and that was for just book one of a trilogy!)and a few chapters of the book, I'm sick of the story.

I'm trying to get more used to writing without an outline so my creativity can flow better--so I'll write down a few ideas, jot down rough scenes, then just ponder the story some more. Brainstorming is probably the most painstaking part of the process for me; I don't want to start a story unless I KNOW I can make it work. And a lot of them don't get past brainstorming, unfortunately.

Meredith said...

I loved learning the intricacies of how you write. Such an insightful post!

I've learned so much about writing just in this past year, and my writing process is changing as a result. I used to get an idea, write in an absolute frenzy of excitement, put the story away and then go back to it for revisions. Now, I'm learning that that way doesn't necessarily work best for me. The key issue is my logic and character motivations which make perfect sense in my mind. However, upon reflection, (and after having an objective reader peruse some of my writing), I've learned that the motivations might not be as clear to the reader. So, I'm starting with characters now, asking myself what they truly want and why. I write down the characters' names and questions about them: Why did so-and-so do such-and-such? What did s/he hope to accomplish by this action? Once I have some clear answers, then I focus on the story plot itself. It's been an invaluable change. I've aslo come to realize that exclusively focusing on a theme stilts my writing. I've learned that the message is a part of me, and if I focus on the story, the message will be more subtle and not "preachy". I just completed a very rough draft of a story that I'm more proud of than anything I've written in ages. The characters are more fleshed out, and I love them all. Now I'll go back and revise.

God bless.

Joanna Stricker said...

My writing process is quite different. I get a great idea. Neglect everything, family, friends, grocery store, chores, everything, for two to four weeks until I have the story written down. The only thing I don't neglect is the coffee shop, where I bemoan their early closing hours. I sometimes end up at all night restaurant after they close. My family jokes about having an intervention. I hope they're joking! Then a few re-drafts before editing, major shifts in story happen during editing as well as, I mean de-wording, then chapters begin going to my online critique group. At least one re-draft to follow!

Anna said...

Well, since the only thing I've had to polish and perfect was my novella for the Cinderella contest, my main method is just to get an idea, sit down, and write it out. :) Then I get another idea, write it out, and so forth. I've been writing like that since I was ten (now I'm fifteen). Because of that, I have completed nineteen "novels" which usually don't have more than 30,000 words. I can't write during the school year, though, since community college is so much different than home school. :P So during this summer, I've been writing furiously and I'm almost done with my first draft of my entry for Five Enchanted Roses! :)

Not quite a very professional writing process, huh? :D

Bookishqueen said...

I let my ideas sit like that to. They are never used unless they made it through a few months of sitting there.

Hannah said...

I love this post so much! And I'm super excited to learn more of this secretive writing project you're being so hush-hush about! :D

Tracey Dyck said...

My writing process varies a bit from one project to another, but this is generally what I do:
1. Get an idea (either it conks me in the head or I consciously pursue it).
2. Let it percolate for however long it needs to -- weeks, months, whatever.
3. Outline. This is usually just a handful of plot points for each chapter, and like Ms. Stengl, it's not written in stone. In fact, I sometimes have to remind myself that my outline is not binding; that I can (and should!) see where my characters take me.
4. First draft. This is usually exciting and adventurous, even if the material is terrible.
5. Edit/rewrite. MANY many times over. My WIP has gone through probably six different versions over the years.
6. Put it aside for a while, then come back to it and read it over once more. I still manage to find errors!

When it's a shorter writing project (like for Five Glass Slippers last year), I tend to outline less. But for novel-length stuff, especially when I know it's part of a grand series, I like to know for sure where I'm going. :)

Jenelle Leanne said...

My writing process is fairly similar to yours. Though I tend to get pretty antsy to start the new idea sooner... and it takes me longer to get a book finished (it didn't, at the beginning, I can do it in about 3 months... but life keeps getting in the way).

The main difference would be that I LOVE (I mean LOVE) the drafting process. The new ideas, seeing how everything is going to come together, that moment when the story just takes off and I feel like I'm more along for the ride than directing the threads... that, for me, is the whole point of writing.

Editing is fine, once I get going, but I have to gear myself up for it, and there's less excitement (though it is easier, I'll admit... particularly with a good content-editor who understands the story/characters/and where I'm wanting to go with everything).

Thanks for sharing your writing process!

Gracie said...

Wow! Your writing process is A LOT more efficient than my writing style, I really need to try your method! :) I'm still pretty new to my new found love of writing, so my writing style is very very poorly done (Even though I have have many steps to do this poor writing.)

1: Get an idea.
2: Debate with myself on the plot line and do my inspirational workouts (cleaning, thinking, walking, and asking for advice.)
4: Build up courage to get on computer and write.
5: Make it up as I go along.
6: Get bored.
7: Get different idea I love and have to force myself to not write it right now.

I haven't finished a good book, so I've never drafted before.

Thank you so much for sharing your method! I REALLY need to try it!

Unknown said...

That is such a great interview. Those are really insightful bits about omniscient narration, especially amidst this time of interlinked narratives in the social media and the whole online world in general. We ought to reconfigure fiction to adjust to that social set-up. Nice touch with the blog tagging as well. A very smart bit of cross-promotion where everyone will benefit.

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