My Writing Process- Blog Tour

Fellow writer Suzie Hunt tagged me to participate in a blog tour. Suzie’s blog is located at http://suziehunt.co.uk/blog . She’s currently working on her second book in the Smokey Days series. Her first, THE RISING WIND, is available for sale on Amazon. The series is about a world where humans are caught in a war between two supernatural races. In an effort to save themselves, the humans sacrifice the very things that make them human.

As part of the tour, I was asked to answer the following questions.

1. What am I working on?

Right now, the answer is a hodgepodge of everything. I’ve written a couple of short stories recently. I’ve been spending a lot of time polishing query letters and a synopsis of my finished manuscript PLAN B, and I have a couple works-in-progress that I’m in the process of rewriting. One of them is a romance, and the other is a New Adult contemporary. I’m also toying with a couple of ideas for new novels, so I’ll just have to see where I end up going from here.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Because it’s mine. Seriously though, New Adult is a relatively new genre, so in itself it’s covering a lot of new ground. The trend tends to be toward romance, and though PLAN B has a love story, it’s background noise compared to the rest of the story. I also like to take characters that people wouldn’t generally sympathize with and make them lovable.

3. Why do I write what I do?

That’s a hard question. I write what inspires me, no matter what the genre. So far the stories that have come to mind have all fallen into the New Adult category. It’s probably largely due to the fact that I went through a lot of major life changes during the period of my life that would fall into the New Adult genre: college, moving out, getting married, my first baby. Though many of those subjects might seem mundane, there’s a lot to work with when it comes to writing a novel.

4. How does your writing process work?

I’m going to out myself as a pantser right now. I’ve tried sitting down and mapping out what is going to happen from one chapter to the next, but I just can’t feel it. For me, the easiest way to write a story is to sit down and write. I usually know where I’m going to start, and where I want to end up, but the journey in between is somewhat of a mystery.

I try to get as much writing done as I can during the beginning of the week. Being a stay-at-home mom, I only get a few precious hours while my youngest is at preschool. The rest of my time for really dedicating myself to writing comes in stolen moments here and there. Twenty minutes while they watch a TV show, an hour in the afternoon when they’re supposed to be upstairs playing quietly, and as long as I can stay awake after they go to bed.

The last two years I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, which made a huge difference in my writing. I had written a couple of novels, but I was stuck in a rut. Participating in NaNo forced me to write. And now I’m addicted. I usually start with a scene or a character, and I just start to write what hits me. Later, I’ll go back and rewrite. Then probably rewrite again. After a few rounds of edits, I’ll send out to beta readers. Depending on what they say, I may do another rewrite, or I may just change a few scenes around here and there.

Other awesome blogs to check out:

Misa Yny writes over at http://www.nolongervulcan.com . She has a lot of great book reviews as well as really great links to articles with publishing advice. Check her out.

Robert Emmett is the mastermind behind Flip Top Headgear which you can find at http://irobert.me . His book MEOWING ON THE ANSWERING MACHINE is available for purchase. And if the short stories in it are anything like his short story “Sparks”, it is a hilarious read. The blog has tons of fun art in addition to writing.

Colleen Halverson has just taken up blogging for the same reason I started this blog. She only has a few posts so far, but she talks a lot about what it’s like to be a writer. You can read her posts at http://colleenbhalverson.wordpress.com .

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The NaNo Gods must be crazy . . .

We’re more than halfway through the month of November. Thanksgiving is only a week and a half away. My husband’s beard is getting decidedly bushy, and the NaNo Gods have decided to throw everything at me. Including the kitchen sink. Maybe it’s time to look for a better sacrifice. My time and sanity don’t seem to be cutting it.

On Saturday I had my first failure of NaNo. Despite writing and desperately updating my word count up until the very stroke of midnight, I only managed to log 1,356 of my 1,666 2/3 word goal. Now I could blame it on a lot of things. I could blame it on a lack of inspiration, my own procrastination or a bad impersonation. It’s got to be some sort of ation, right? But no. I lay the blame squarely on the shoulder of my bushy-bearded husband.

My husband is not nearly as big of a fan of NaNo as I am. In fact, he pretty much just hates it. Apparently I spend too much time obsessing over writing, and not enough time paying attention to him. (Forgive me. I’m an addict.) So this year in a blatant attempt to ruin my run at NaNo he went and got sick with pneumonia. Pneu-fricking-monia! Are you kidding me??? I blame it on his beard. Surely the pneumonia organisms wouldn’t have been able to settle in if they hadn’t been able to cling to the unshaven strands that are covering his face.

Needless to say, Saturday was the climax of his illness, which resulted in us spending our afternoon in the Emergency Room (because small town’s don’t understand the need for Urgent Care centers). Thankfully an amazing friend watched the kids so I didn’t have to try and corral them around the hospital waiting room.

The good news is, I have quite a few words saved for a rainy day like Saturday was. Par for today is an even thirty thousand words. I’m currently sitting at 36,673, and I haven’t written today. Well, that’s not true. I’ve written two and a half newspaper articles and this blog post. I just haven’t had a chance to sit down and work on NaNo. But I will find time. I will preserver. And tomorrow and Wednesday I will have a bit of respite while both kids are in school, and the mending spouse is at work. Hopefully I can work my way closer to that elusive 50,000 word target and not give myself pneumonia doing it.

On the fourth day of NaNo, my novel gave to me . . .

So we are officially on the fourth day of NaNoWriMo, which means I probably shouldn’t be writing this blog post. For the next few weeks, there are two reasons I will be blogging: either I’m taking a quick break from my novel (and hopefully caught up on my word counts) or I’ve fallen hopelessly behind and given up.

Today is the first of those two. Whew! It’s been a difficult few days, but I’m keeping up. I think this year had a rough start because the first of November fell on a Friday. For most people, the weekend is probably the best time to get writing done. For me, it’s the opposite. With my husband and kids home all weekend, it’s hard for me to find time to sit down by myself and concentrate like I need to. And for us, the weekend usually starts early on Friday. Combine that with a six-year-old who is still recovering from a nasty fever, and trying to hit my 1666 2/3 words each day was a challenge. 

On Friday, I managed to get a good start, writing over 2,000 words. But I knew I needed some extra in the tank to save up for later. Saturday we went for a 22.5 mile bike ride, which took most of the day. And yesterday we spent a good portion of the day in the car. It was a bit of a stretch to hit the 5,000 word mark that I needed to reach to keep on track, but I managed.

The story has been moving a little more slowly than I’d like, and I’m not sure I like most of what I’ve written, but that’s the point in NaNo. Sometimes you have to just have to hogtie your inner-editor, add some duct tape across their mouth and toss them in the corner. They can wait there patiently until December first. So that’s my plan. I’ll keep putting down words, and hopefully I’ll have at least a rough story that can be shaped into something better down the line.

As I write this, I’m at 7,295 words which puts me ahead of where I need to be, but there’s a long time between now and the end of the month. There’s no telling what could happen between now and them. So for now, I’ll just keep on plugging along and hope divine inspiration strikes.

NaNoWriMo Eve

As I sit here writing this blog post, it is officially NaNoWriMo Eve. To most people it would be know as Halloween, but Halloween is over in this house. The costumes have been stripped off and left lying in the middle of the floor surrounded by candy wrappers, I’ve eaten more candy than real food, and the kids have finally slipped off to dream in their sugar comas. The last trick-or-treaters have turned in for the night. And I am left staring into the eyes of NaNo.

This year will mark the first year I’ve actually planned on taking the NaNo challenge. I first heard about the 50,000 word race two years ago, but it was already halfway through the month of November, and I had no ideas on new material to write, so I didn’t even bother. Last year, I was (as usual) late to the party. I’d forgotten about it until I read about it on a parenting forum. By then, it was the third of November. Even though I didn’t have the beginnings of a novel in my brain, divine inspiration struck, and a novel was born.

This year, I’ve had time to prepare, and maybe that’s the reason I’m feeling somewhat apprehensive about it. I’m not sure why I’m so worried. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve succeeded once, which makes the idea of failure even less appealing. Maybe it’s the fact that my kids have spent the last week sick, so I’ve had almost no time to myself to sit down and write. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m halfway through a rewrite that I’m reluctant to put aside for the next month. It’s hard to say, but the excitement that I felt a week or so ago has turned to nerves.

It probably doesn’t help that I find myself lacking slightly in the familial support department. My husband seems to think that NaNo made me into a cranky, hermit last year. (You should see his, “Don’t bother me. I’m writing.” impression.) The one big plus here is that he has decided to enter a November contest of his own. He and his coworkers have all agreed to participate in No-Shave November, and they’re going to vote to see who grows the best beard. I think that buys me a little bit of wiggle room. If I have to put up with his bushy beard, he can deal with my need for writing time.

So I’m sitting here, while my husband eats the kids Halloween candy, wondering what the next month will bring. And hoping I’ll be able to find the time to bang out the 1,666 and 2/3 words that I need to get down every day to make my 50,000 word goal. And worrying that I’ll run out of material before I hit 50k. But you know what? Tomorrow I will sit down at the computer, I will hit the keys, and I’ll do the best I can. And I’ll let you know how I do along the way. (Assuming I can find time to write a blog post in addition to my NaNo necessities.)

Wish me luck and may the NaNo be with you!

Ask me about my NaNo

The leaves are changing colors, the mountains are covered with tiny blankets of white, and there is a definite chill in the air. That means it’s almost my favorite time of year (and probably my husband’s least favorite.) I’m talking about NaNoWriMo.

For those of you who don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month. Granted, it’s also No Shave November, National Diabetes Awareness Month, Sweet Potato Awareness Month, Native American Heritage Month, and a whole slew of others. So it’s totally understandable if, between all of those and the holidays, you didn’t know about NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo is celebrated with an online writing contest. The goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Doesn’t matter if they’re good or not. The point is just to sit down and get the story out. My husband actually wrote, “This is my novel” and copied and pasted it a billion times. He actually made the computer freeze up after getting over a million words. He threatened to actually upload it just to say he was a winner, but he chickened out, leaving me as the only NaNoWriMo winner in this house.

Last year was my first year competing in NaNo, and it was an eye opening experience for me. I had written several novels before, but each had taken me years to get down on paper (or the computer screen). By forcing myself to ignore my annoying, OCD inner-editor, I was able to hit the 50,000 word goal days before the deadline. It was a huge victory for me, and I still smile thinking about it. Was it hard work? Yeah. I had to dedicate a lot of my free time to writing. It meant spending less time on Facebook and more time thinking. And it was totally worth it.

Now, obviously a novel written in the course of a month isn’t likely going to be publishable right off the bat. I’m still working on the one hundred and ninetieth rewrite of last year’s novel (not quite, but it feels like it.) But come November 1st, the gloves are off. The rewrite will be pushed to the side, and if all goes well, another 50,000 words will be born.

So join me if you like. There’s nothing to lose even if you don’t hit the goal. At least you can say you tried. And feel free to ask me questions about NaNo. I may not be an expert, but I’ve lived it, and I can’t wait to do it again.

The Rough Draft

I’ve done it. I’ve finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, when I got there, I found out it was more like a suggestion of a light. The burning ember on the tip of a match stick. Because, let’s face it, as an author, your work is never really done. But that’s not the point. The point is, I’ve finally reached a point with my previous manuscript where I can’t do much but sit back and wait. Yes, I’ll continue to send out query letters, but my work on the piece itself is at a standstill. I could probably continue revising, changing, fixing and rearranging, but I’m honestly afraid I’d never stop. So I’m moving onto the next project.

Whatever you do, DON’T TELL MY HUSBAND! He thinks I spend too much time writing. And I probably do. This blog post is a perfect example. I should be packing, getting things ready to go camping, but I’m sitting here writing instead. Anyway, back on track. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been working on the first draft of my newest work in progress. If you’ve read my last blog post, you will remember her fondly as Phoebe. Phoebe and I have had a rough couple of weeks. I keep deleting and rewriting. I’m not 100% happy with what I’ve written, so I change it, which results in not enough time to move the story forward. And it’s frustrating.

It shouldn’t be. A first draft is a ROUGH draft for a reason. I think part of my problem is the fact that my last first draft was written during NANOWRIMO. For those of you unfamiliar with Nano, it’s a contest held in November in honor of National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It forces you to ignore your inner editor and just get words on the page. Oh, how I miss that. Apparently I need that to help me get my ideas down.

I’ve only managed about 5,000 words of my current draft, and it’s rough. It’s rougher than washboard on a county road at 50 miles per hour. Rougher than sandpaper on bare feet. Rougher than . . . Well, you get my point. It’s not very good. But I need to get over it and get the story down. Because as I write, I learn my characters. I learn to write in their voice, what they would do, say. How they’d react. And until I really learn who they are, it’s not going to be very good. That’s what the next draft is for.

So wish me luck. Phoebe and I will be out of contact for the next few days. I won’t have a computer. (My husband would be suspicious.) But I am taking a good ol’ fashioned pen and paper. Maybe then I can make some progress and learn who Phoebe really is.

Twelve Steps for Writers

I’ve been writing on and off for as long as I can remember. I vividly remember the first story I wrote on my own. It was in first grade and titled “The Lost Dog.” The plot focused on the narrator’s discovery of a lost dog with *gasp* no tags, so a journey began to try and find the dog’s home. My narrator eventually traversed across the world, and in the much awaited sequel, even took a space ship to the other planets to find the dog’s owner. (Apparently I was a bit naive about stray animals.)

I wrote my first novel in middle school. Quality-wise, it probably wasn’t any better than the Lost Dog. Rosewater Creek looked at my life running a horse ranch in Texas (neither of which I knew anything about.) My friends were the main characters, and I even wrote a letter to a famous, and very hot, country singer asking if he’d come film the movie with us. (Oh yes. I thought it was good enough to make a movie.) I never did hear back. Through all of my life, writing has been one constant for me, so it makes sense that it’s what I’m returning to now.

That being said, I was not prepared for the way writing would arrest every bit of my mind when I started writing my latest novel. I started work on Plan B for NanoWrimo. For those of you who don’t know (and if you haven’t done it, that’s probably you) November is National Novel Writing Month. To acknowledge that, a non-profit holds a contest every November. The goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. They want you to let go of your inner editor and just let the words flow. I’d heard of Nano before, but I had always forgotten about it until it was too late. Last year, I was reminded of it on November 3. I was hesitant to jump in, because I was already a couple of days behind with no idea what I was going to write about. Then it came to me, and I started to write. It was amazing the way the words flowed onto the page, and the story morphed and took shape. I’ve heard people talk about their characters as though they were real living, breathing people, and I never got it. Until now.

Since November, my mind is never far from my writing. I finished the first draft of my novel, then buckled down on a fresh rewrite. When that rewrite was through, I found beta readers and then I started editing again. In the meantime, my mind has been working constantly on trying to find the next idea. The next novel. Because, honestly, I can’t wait to start writing again.

I read a recent interview with R.L. Stine. He described being an author as being addicted to writing. And he’s right. Writing, publishing, editing . . . It’s on my mind constantly. I fall asleep at night thinking about what I can change, what can be fixed, what to do next. That being said, I decided I needed to develop a 12 step program for all of us writers out there.

Step 1- Admit that you have a problem. (That’s what I’m doing right now.)

Step 2- Believe that turning your manuscript over to a higher power (agent, editor or publisher) will help with your problem.

Step 3- Write a query letter.

Step 4- Rewrite the query letter.

Step 5- Rewrite the query letter again.

Step 6- Force yourself to hit send.

Step 7- Check your email immediately after sending. Just in case.

Step 8- Pee a little when you get an immediate response.

Step 9- Realize that it was only an automated response. Change your pants.

Step 10- Try not to get excited every time you check your email.

Step 11- Get a response.

Step 12- Start the whole process again.

The beauty of the process is the fact that it doesn’t matter what the response in step 11 is. If they say no, you’re going to keep trying. It’s going to keep eating at you. If they say yes, well, chances are good that once the dust settles, you’re going to be right back at the computer, pounding out the next manuscript.