Category Archives: discovery

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:

Friday Link Pack: 2/28/14

The last Friday in February – how time flies. I believe this will be my last Friday Link Pack to cover for K.M. Alexander, however I plan to continue doing this style of post more regularly. It has been a great experience in the sense that I have become more diligent in reading more blog posts and staying in tune with the writing community.

I owe a thank you to those who have tuned in and followed writebrainedramblings – I know a couple of you have become followers and I hope to offer you motivation, advice, and a place to read something of substance, if not tangential. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter at @wordrew.

Writing:

“I almost let him die.”

Victoria is a great writer to follow – her insights are always fantastic and tangible.  This article really hit home with me, as my most recent work (of which I posted a raw snippet) was something that I wrote on a warped mini notepad that I was using as a coaster on my nightstand. The opening of the story was a slurry of words that swirled and thickened in my mind as I drifted on the edge of deep sleep. Usually, when I am tired, I SLEEP – there is no drifting near anything. Just sleep.

Writing Excuses 9.6: The Experience of Time

This is a great episode in which relating real life experiences, and how the flow of time can change, in real life situations. Time can play such a powerful role in our writing – it can also wreak havoc if we are not careful.

The Biggest Lie Aspiring Writers Believe

I cannot tell you how hard this hit home with me. It is my biggest struggle. It always has been. I need to plug in a different response, pronto. Instead of ‘one more video game’ or ‘just a bit more research on new board games’. I need to listen to Patrick Rothfuss when he says:

RothfussPatrick

Random:

National Enquirer Forced to Fund New Playwriting Foundation in Honor of Phillip Seymour Hoffman

I have listened to both side of the argument about PSH’s death – that it is tragic and too early, or that we shouldn’t be praising an addict who chose drugs over family. This isn’t in any way taking a stance on that issue. This is a rose in the cracks – a seedling of something great born from a tragedy. Plus, screw the National Enquirer.

On why I accepted the apology and on the role of apologies in general

I love Mary Robinette Kowal, but I do not follow her enough to know what this post is really about – I imagine it has to do with SFWA and the trouble that community has been having as of late. None-the-less, this is a great article to read about what an apology actually is, and why we need to think about them before we give or accept them.

Farewell Gif of the Week:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

-Albert Einstein

Friday Link Pack 02/14/14

In K.M. Alexander’s stead, it’s time to share a few links that I stumbled upon throughout the week. I am going to start mentioning the articles that interest me via my Twitter account, so follow along there if you want.

This is the inaugural Friday Link Pack for me and Write-brained Ramblings. I found the time I spent researching articles (I have not been, historically, as proactive in reading articles as K.M. is) was entertaining and informative – I will be sure to dive deeper into the blogosphere and stay connected.

Let me take a few moments to introduce myself. My name is Drew Gerken and I am currently an aspiring writer, brewer, new father, and a pursuer of dreams and interests. I am also a collector of hobbies.  I love learning how to do things for myself, getting my hands dirty, and pursuing new experiences. The request for me to fill in has really helped motivate me to try and stay informed and share what I find as valuable as a writer, brewer, and human being.

Writing:

Are we growing out of Epic Fantasy?

This is a brief but great article that discusses a shift from praise-worthy heroes and grandiose story arcs to a more character-centric story with internal conflict as a more central theme. I write Fantasy, and my recent works have flopped a bit mainly due to, in retrospect, me trying to write Martin/Sanderson-esque epics when my heart and interests really want to focus on a character overcoming their flaws, adversity, and growing into something great.

Another Way to Deal with Procrastination

An article on the neuroscience of imagining your goal beyond something you love as a way to associate the happiness with the goal. I am definitely going to practice the exercise that Diane outlines, as procrastination is an art form that I have definitely mastered.

Writers Aren’t Insane, We’re “Disinhibited”

Setsu over at KatanaPen is a friend and writer peer who doesn’t waste anyone’s time with fluff or frills. She is a fantastic resource on writing, martial arts, and not putting up with bullshit. If you aren’t following her blog or on Twitter, you probably should be.

This article also talks about Neuroscience (two in one week is atypical for me, as I left my psychology interests behind in college) and how creativity and eccentric personalities are related.

Are You Still “Aspiring”? How to Level Up as a Writer.

This is a post by the fabulous Lauren Sapala. I know that K.M. has mentioned Lauren’s blog a few times in the past – I am here to reinforce the fact that you should be following her if you are not. Lauren has been a major inspiration for me, and is firmly entrenched as a cheerleader and motivator for my writing career.

This post is probably the most applicable to me as a writer right now – just refer back to my intro where I called myself an aspiring writer. My goal is to start scheduling writing sessions in the morning.

The Days When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

Check Wendig is typically NSFW, but the rawness of his voice strikes true to me. I enjoy his blog immensely, and this post is helping me break down some of my own writing barriers. Don’t let the writing guise fool you though, the heart of this post should be applied to most aspects of life.

Other Works:

Portraits

This is a fantastic piece that sketches various reader/writer personalities in a few lines. I can see myself in the first, third, and seventh portraits. How about you?

Random:

Beard Beer: Rogue Ales Creates Brew out of Yeast from Brewmaster John Maier’s Facial Hair

This is old, so don’t rush off and call Rogue to get your hands on a bottle – they are all sold out by this point. I find it fascinating though. I feel the urge to throw away my electric trimmer and razors as well, and start cultivating my own yeast strain. I told you I like to try new things, right?

Happy Valentine’s Day:

Torz Reynolds Slices Off Tattoo of Ex-Boyfriend…

Nothing says ‘true love’ like “Chopper’s Bitch”. Nothing says ‘we’re done’ like an envelope of withered facial flesh.

Farewell Gif of the Week:

Remember, if you bring your partner to a hotel for a romantic getaway this weekend, DON’T do this…

Discovering Your Voice & Not Knowing How to Use It

Wow. It has been a while since posting anything and I feel as though each day without an update is alienating me from my writing peers – something I never want to do.

I have had a few letdowns and a few breakthroughs since NaNoWriMo destroyed my writer’s confidence. I would not have felt so defeated had I not felt so prepared before the month began. I had an outline, character sketches, a writing strategy, and a dedicated space to do it in. I also had an amazing support group. It just wasn’t meant to be in 2013.

In December I had a dream. A week later I discovered my voice through a whimsical short story. I was writing outside of my preferred genre and it felt great. The beginning paragraph formed in my head while I was trying to sleep – I could not stop thinking about it, turning it over and over in my head until I reached over to my nightstand and grabbed a mangy little notebook that was warped from being used as a coaster. It didn’t matter. None of the things that I thought of as ‘tools’ mattered. The Evernote Moleskine notebook wasn’t needed. Neither were the eight different colors of the new Sharpie pens, for which I had a color assigned to each character. I realized later that perhaps they are all distractions. When the lightning flashes, you will use anything to write with. The instrument is nothing more than a conduit- be it a pen, iPad, eyeliner, crayon, or keyboard. It also didn’t matter that I was exhausted, writing into the early morning. I even fell asleep writing in mid-sentence once.

Since then, however, I have struggled – floundered even. This post discusses what I believe to be the underlying issue.

Discovering Your Voice & Not Knowing How to Use It

To be enamored with your own writing style is a special thing. I am not sure how many writers feel the same way, but when you finally write your way through a piece you feel is worth a damn and come out on the other side feeling excited about it…that is special. I was writing fantasy before this breakthrough. I have always loved the idea of being a fantasy writer. It stems from being an avid role-player for the past twenty-plus years. It stems from loving to read in that genre. It stems from being a total worldbuilder junkie.

What I did for this story was completely different though. I was transcribing a dream and adding little elements that were either hazy in my recollections, or that made sense to me on a purely subconscious level within the dream. I didn’t have to think about anything. I just wrote what I saw and felt and tasted. It came out snarky and whimsical. I feel like, if pressed to put it in a genre, it would fit in Urban Magical Romance. Sort of.

I woke the next morning and sped to work, wanting to share the breakthrough with my writing friends there. I transferred the story onto my computer and sent it to a few friends. Once that was done, I was energized to write more. I needed to cling to the crackling energy that was dissipating. I must have destroyed a dozen pages of my notebook trying to let that voice ooze out of me. Nothing happened.

So this is where I find myself today, more than a month after my breakthrough. I have a work that I believe, with a few rounds of editing and the dawning of realization that I figure out exactly what it is, could be worth sending out. I have the knowledge that I have a voice worth reading – I even hear that voice echoing somewhere deep within. I also have the stare-at-the-screen, deer-in-the-headlights, drool-on-the-notepad paralysis. I have no idea where to start or how to begin.

Perhaps finding a way to bridge this new voice with my beloved Fantasy genre is where I need to experiment next? Perhaps I need to find inspiration in the ridiculous things around me? Perhaps I need to shut the hell up and just write?

I know that other writers struggle with this. I know this because Lauren has a great post about How to Hunt your Writing Voice, and she knows lots of spectacular things about writers. I know this because my peers talk about this regularly – even the ones who are publishing.

I want to know about your struggles with voice. I want to know how you are working to overcome those struggles. I want to know that you overcame them.