Monthly Archives: March 2014

Four Secrets to My Writing Process

Four Secrets to My Writing Process

I have been fortunate enough to be included in a Writing Process Blog Hop by the magnificent KM Alexander, author of The Stars Were Right. The fact that I was considered for this was enough to make breathing hard for me. This is uncharted waters for me – “here there be monsters” type stuff, really.

As part of the hop, I am charged with answering four questions about my ‘process’. I utilize the quotation marks because, at least at this point, I am still discovering what works for me. This may be more of a discussion on what I have tried, what has worked, and what hasn’t stuck.

Q1: What are you working on?

Isn’t that the $64,000 question? Currently, as in the past few months, I started working on a short story that I dreamt. I knew it was worth writing, because it gnawed at me for a few days, until, one night, I just couldn’t sleep anymore. The beginning was echoing through my head, and one sentence turned into another, turned into another. It fits mostly in magical realism I think, but that doesn’t really encompass it either.

The story is about a gin-loving late twenty-something whose new girlfriend throws him a surprise birthday party at his favorite bar on the shore of Lake Michigan. My full intention is to follow this story through the seasons – starting with this one, set it a picturesque Michigan summer. I envision it a chapbook about the seasons of relationships. I have sketched some ideas about the winter portion, and they are much bleaker.

I also have a WIP for my fantasy writings. Fantasy is the genre that I have always aspired to write in. The problem is, I haven’t written anything near the quality of my aforementioned short story in my Fantasy scribblings thus far. I know that I will find my voice there soon, I believe that I just need to keep writing to get there.

The WIP has the working title, Wake of Flames, and is based on twin brothers who discover their magical abilities in completely different ways but at the same time. Parl is an emotional, feisty boy who lives in the moment. He brings forth fire that he cannot control with devastating consequences. Purl, the other half of the womb, is calculating and an introvert. His ability to summon water was brought on out of necessity – his twin brother, Parl, was caught in an inferno. The story is about their fleeing the smoldering ruins of their childhood, self-discovery, and eventually the twins dealing with a manipulative, theocratic oligarchy.

Q2: How does your work differ from others in the genre?

I think I get a bit of a cop-out answer here. I don’t have a work as of yet. I do, however, know two things about my writing – two things that multiple readers have said give it power.

First is my voice. I am not entirely sure what it is about my voice that lends quality to my words, but I know it is there. The magical realism short story is where I discovered that voice – it is where I knew I had the innate beginnings of being a writer. My only issue now is, I have a hard time calling forth that voice on demand. It takes me a bit of exploratory writing to get it back every time. I know that will fade as I write more and more.

The second is my description. I have always loved staring at a mental Polaroid of my setting in my mind, and breaking down the essentials into rich, tangible pieces. I enjoy obtuse metaphors as a means of description as well, which I think is as much a part of my voice as my description.

Q3: Why do you write what you write?

I would love to say that it is because I have no choice – that it is a writhing serpent which needs to uncoil and my skull will burst if I don’t write it now. I think it is, and I have said this before, that I am in love with the idea of being a writer. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have stories that I need to tell, but if I don’t write consistently my life doesn’t unravel around me. I wish it were the other way around. I wish I had to write. I would love for nothing more than my characters to come visit me at night, or ride in the passenger seat while I commute to work. I think I will get there, but for now, I just need to write more.

As for the genre, I want to write Fantasy because that has been my escape for over twenty years. I am an avid RPGer. I am an avid Fantasy reader. I love magic and magic systems. I also L-O-V-E world-building. In Wake of Flames, Parl and Purl are set in a homebrew world, Cildaire, that I created for a D&D group that I played with for six years. I love the world. I realized, however, that since I am not writing gaming fiction, that I needed to change some things. I stripped back all of the mechanical elements of the D&D setting. Now, some people wield magic and some don’t – for those that do, they all wield it differently.

Q4: How does your writing process work?

Well, I have a dream, I let it marinate, and then I write it down once I cannot stand it anymore. At least, that is how ‘Summer’ went. I’ve tried being an architect. I’ve also tried being a pantser. I think that I am somewhere in between. Outlining the major points, as well as any ‘cool factor’ elements that I want included, has been my foundation. After that is set, I pretty much discovery write the rest. I listen to my characters (when they show up). I walk through the settings that I know I want incorporated. I think a bit about the ending and what it is going to take to get there.

I am working on establishing a set writing schedule, but things have been pretty hectic with a brand new baby in the house.

One thing that I think it crucial to point out is that I handwrite my drafts. There is something so visceral and engaging in writing manuscript. I have also read studies that indicate that writing versus typing is a more creative process. Typing is really nothing more than a fine motor skill, and your brain is firing synapses on how to move your fingers from one key to the next. With manual writing, the process is slower, and your brain has time to think ahead while your hand manipulates the pen it holds. I am sure I completely slaughtered the analysis of the article I read.

For me, it does allow my brain a bit more time to think. The result is a richer draft. My diction and phrasing is stronger because of the delay from one word to the next. I love it. Also, this process offers another fantastic benefit. You get the insertion of a vital, necessary round of editing when you transfer the words to the computer. My handwritten version is a true zero draft. Once I have transcribed the zero draft to the computer, it has already become a first draft. I have corrected the obvious spelling and grammar issues. I have reread the entire piece, so plot holes, awkward phrasing, inconsistencies, and necessities are flashing their pointy-toothed smiles at me. It doesn’t mean that my first draft is super polished, but it is definitely stronger.

The Hop

It is my turn to pass this hop on to four three unsuspecting writers/bloggers who can offer insight into their processes. I admire and support these people either for the work they have done, are doing, or will do in the future. They may not be huge names yet, but that is just a matter of time. There are numerous others that could have made the list as well, but they are already participating in the hop.

Claudia Bradshaw

Claudia is a personal friend and we are writing partners. She is an inspiration. She is also NSFW and I love her for that. We write completely different things at this point, but once she gets back on track with her YA Urban Fantasy story, we will be on similar pages again. I am, at this point, one of two people in our writing group who can read the entirety of her current works. Claudia really started writing with a purpose about a year ago. During NaNoWriMo 2013, she wrote her first manuscript which has already been self-published and receiving fantastic reviews in the New Adult/Erotica arena.

Abbigail E. Kriebs

Although I have just started following Abbigail on Twitter and her blog, Inkwells and Images, I have to say that I love her words. Visiting her site feels whimsical and sort of like watching a unicorn sleep. Her passion for writing and photography is obvious and warming. I just love following her endeavors.

Lee French

Lee is a friend from an online RPG community. She writes – a lot! She is also a self-proclaimed squirrel aficionado. She offers fantastic book reviews, writing advice, and snippets of her work. I love the fact that she writes fiction based on her gaming group. I admire her for self-publishing her work and pushing to create and publish more all of the time.

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Friday Link Pack: 3/28/14

It has been two weeks too long for one of these. I am still super happy that K.M. Alexander asked me to fill in for him during February, and I hope to continue this tradition as well. I had a hard time remembering what posts I thought were outstanding this week, so the list below is only composed of those that I do recall being exceptional. I will do a better job bookmarking the links I need throughout the week.

Writing:

Terribleminds has a “Five Things I Learned Writing….” series that is awesome! Two that I read this week really resonated with me:

Adam Christopher writes about ensuring that you werite what you love and story concerning yourself with staying in-genre. If you’ve followed my blog at all, you will know that I struggle with this. I always want to write what I love, but I was trying to force everything into the Fantasy genre. Once I stopped that, a bit of magic happened and I am much happier with what I am writing. I know that I will get ‘back’ to the Fantasy genre that I know, love, and aspire to write in, but for now, I just need to write what inspires me.

Wendy Wagner teaches us that babies are not for eating. Also, that you need to leave room for characters, good or bad, to be hated but not abandoned to sheer hopelessness for being saved. If your character becomes a ‘zombie’, as she puts it, there will be no reason not to destroy every single part of it – there is no redeeming quality left. I love this idea, because not every villain is totally black-hearted and evil. Backstory can create sympathy and tension. To take it a step further, in the pilot for Walking Dead, there is the scene where the mom is a zombie, and Morgan Jones watches her through the scope of his hunting rifle. The wife is a zombie, there is no saving her. She must die. Do not let your villains or antagonists get to this point.

Four Secretes From My Writing Process

Lauren Sapala is a name that I bring up often. That will not change. You need to follow her. Anyways, she was asked to do a blog hop and reveal four hidden truths of her writing process. It was incredible insightful. More importantly, it motivated her to share even more of herself with us on this post.

Random:

Fireside Magazine Year 3 Kickstarter

I admit to never having subscribed to, or even heard about, this magazine until now. I am excited for what their mission is: “We have two goals: finding and publishing great storytelling regardless of genre, and fair pay for creators.” This is an endeavor every writer should back.

Aether Magic by Happy Mitten Games

This is an amazing game. I have play-tested it with Jeff, Lee, and Kyle. I am also intimately connected to the project, and am proud of what it has become. If you are into board games at all, you should listen to HMG’s podcast – the talent that they interview is pretty outstanding. Follow them @HappyMitten as well.

 

Farewell Gif of the Week:

My Absence

Hey there.

I just wanted to give a brief update that I have not forgotten about my posting here. The past few weeks have been extremely turbulent, but I am past that now, so I should be able to resume regular posting in the next few days.

Nothing completely devastating has happened, but my parents did come and visit for eight days, so most of my time was spent with them. Also, it seems as though I need to start looking for the proverbial greener pastures in terms of a career, as my boss and company have shown their true colors very recently.

I have every intention to resume my (lesser) version of the Friday Link Pack, but I just haven’t had the time during the past two weeks.

My writing has halted a bit, but I hope to change that this week.

See you all real soon.

Skin in the Game VS External Motivators

It is amazing what a little direction and an external motivator can do for a writer. I think, at times, I take my writing group for advantage – as in, I am always amped to beta read, offer my services as a sounding board, or my myriad experiences with life and the multitude of careers that I have held…but sometimes (most of the time?), I fall vastly short of what I promise. I am the Prince of Empty Promises, which sucks…hard. Hell, I can’t even follow through on promises I make to myself (remember, Self, when I promised to write every day, even if it was only for twenty minutes?).

So when a friend offers to help me, it usually brings forth feelings of guilt, bubbling to the surface in sticky, resinous clots. I need to get over that shit. I am an ESFJ, which I hear is pretty cool. I don’t know a ton about personality tests, but the title of ‘Provide’ definitely seems to fit me well. I love to give, and have a hard time taking. I want to motivate others to be their best. I want people to look up to me for one reason or another – I guess that is why I have a degree in education. I believe that one should only surround his/her self with people that they strive to be like – I do not waste time with people that I do not admire. That being said, I need to get over my shit and start taking help from those who I admire, those who I strive to be like.

So, I was offered help recently. By one of those very friends who I strive to be like, none-the-less. Someone who is as well versed in literature and writing as you can get. Someone whose spirit and personality outshines everything else. And my knee-jerk reaction was to make sure that I wasn’t taking advantage of their expertise or services. I was laughed at, in the most kind-hearted and flattering of ways.

That brings us to today. I have written more from the spark of that outreach in the past six days than I have in several months. I talked about my lightning in a bottle writing session a while back – this is the most I have written since then. And it feels incredible. I am just writing. I am getting out of my own head, circumventing the tumors of self-doubt and vast wasteland of over analysis. I am just writing. And it feels incredible.

Concurrent to NaNoWriMo, their funding drive kicks into full gear. The argument is simple: if you donate money to the cause, you will be more inclined to reach your goal. I use this same argument at work. If you put some skin in the game, you are more aware and involved in whatever it is you are doing. So I donated. And I ‘failed’. I wrote over 13k words, so it wasn’t a total failure, but it sure wasn’t the mark that I set for myself. I am okay with that today. However, for me personally, this rationalization is a complete lie. It is bullshit. If I were to actualize my intentions for everything that I approach in this manner, I would be in amazing shape as well. As in, I pay for a gym membership every month, but I haven’t gone in eight. Skin in the game does not work for me.

The difference for me, in this situation, is that I am now on the hook for letting a friend down. If I don’t follow through, I am going to fail as an ESFJ. Again, that profile doesn’t resonate with me in terms of being a Briggs Meyer fanatic – it resonates with me in terms of being the person I want to be. I want people to come to me for help, advice, a hug…whatever. But I need to be able to reciprocate that situation for my friends as well. They are doing incredible things. I am sure they want me to go to them for help. Sometimes though, they chose to offer the hand before the request. I feel this encouragement in many ways. For example, I felt it when KM Alexander asked me to cover his Friday Link Packs while he was on tour with his wife for her amazing art exhibition in Melbourne.

I promised my amazing writing group that I would submit to contests, lit mags, etc. at least four times this year. I am certain that I will accomplish this, because I have an external motivator now – the fear of letting my group down. I have promised a friend to try a strategy in writing, and I am producing words again. This is happening because of that push. Even if fear is the motivator, it is working. I do a lot of public speaking and for me, that fear, right before I begin a presentation, is a tangible pod humming with the energy I need to be great. I harness that fear, breathing it in and swallowing it, as fuel to do great things.

All I can do now is figure out how to take my fears and apprehensions with writing and harness them in the same way. Dedicating time to the craft, and getting a few words on the page is the start. As I test the waters with my words, I will breath in their energy, and build up the confidence to dive in and let the electrifying shock of the process invigorate me.

How about you? Do you perform better when you have some skin in the game or when you have the push of an external motivator behind you?