Writing Process… Wha? Huh?

journals laptop tea cup


I am all nostalgic looking at this photo. Awww. Volume 19. How cute. (My handwritten journals are currently closer to volume 48. I write 3 pages a day thanks to a long standing Artist’s Way habit. )  And that’s my old laptop. I miss those stickers. *pats laptop*

Ahem. Where was I?  Oh. Yeah. Jason Cantrell tagged me to write a blog about my writing process.  Ta da! I’m writing. It’s a process.

Oh. That’s not what he meant.

I said I was going to blog about not blogging, because instead of blogging I’ve been actually writing.  But that’s only one sentence. And there are questions and structure and stuff to this thing.  Oh, very well.

What am I working on?

Several things at the moment.

  1.  First priority is fine-tuning and little tweaks and touches on Salvaged.  (Someone take it away from me…. no, seriously. Someone decide it should be published so I can stop messing with it.)  I’m querying agents at a steady rate of one per week.
  2. Second project is still sort of secret. It’s a collaboration. My stuff is due by 27 June.  I will shout it from the rooftops as I learn more about where it’s going. Promise. But, it does involve money exchanging hands, and the possibility of even bigger, more exciting work in the future…

I would list the rest of the projects – the comic book script, the short stories I’m mid-revision on, etc. But generally that just stresses me out, and I’m focusing on the things I MUST get done in the very near term, rather than the big long list.

There is a big-badda long list.

I created a GANTT chart.  I want to get some of these shorts out the door so I can get my magazine clips going. There are 2 in rough draft and growing phases, and 2 in 3rd draft revisions.  Toss me the time to work on them, will ya?

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I have a very simple philosophy about special snowflakes. The only thing that makes my work different is what is authentically from me and my heart.

I’m a big believer in collective subconscious and the mythic underbelly of our lives, so I don’t usually get so ego-inflated to say that I’m writing something shiny and new.

Salvaged is different because there is very little stretching of the possible.

  • I researched the most plausible, and possible, population crash scenario that exists. I talked to that guy I went on one awkward double-date with in high school who now does statistical modeling for the CDC. I read the books sitting around on  the shelves next to the WebMD news desk. I asked questions of journalists and docs whenever there was an outbreak of e. coli.
  • In my story, technology only advanced in the areas that were necessary based on the needs of the world. There is ONE new gadget (and it’s based on existing gadgets). Cars don’t fly.
  • My heroine is broken, crazy, and human. She fights when cornered, without skill, but with passion. She’s not a superhero. She could use a hug.

Generally speaking, my writing is dark with an underpinning of hope.

Why do I write what I do?

I love the cautionary-tale aspect of sci-fi. I like the exploration of what might be as a way to understand what is.

I’m a classic science fiction fan who has a degree in politics. I really get into the social commentary side of the world building. I keep it light in the final product – but you’d better believe I’ve got files of backstory on the world itself.

I’m also a big myth and fantasy fan, so those tend to play into a lot of my work, as well. I love the way writers can tap into archetypes that make stories real for everyone, even if they are on some other world.

How does my writing process work?

Well…. that’s a work in progress, honestly. I can tell you how I’d like it to work. Will that suffice?

You see, I pantsed Salvaged. I had built the world and the characters in 1998, and fiddled with the research in 2002. It had been gathering dust in my hard drive when I sat down and wrote 100,000 words in 3 weeks. (And whew, there were so many dishes to wash at the end of those 3 weeks).

The problem with that NaNoWriMo-style pantsing was there were 4 plots, a crappy, dribbly climax, and absolutely no structure in draft one.  Let’s just consider that a character study. Draft 2 used roughly 2 of the plots, and was essentially an end-to-end rewrite.  …. The one I’m tweaking now is actually draft 10. TEN.  I never want to write ten drafts of anything again in my whole life.

Therefore, in subsequent projects, I’ve employed basic beat outlines and plotting. (Which I learned the hard way in Drafts 5-9 of Salvaged).

Last November, I managed to bang out a rough draft of a novel against an outline.  It was just barely over the 50K goal, and I had not planned nearly enough on the subplot level.  I’m letting it marinate, and then I’ll go back in in a while and see how easily I can make draft 2 into something Beta-ready.

The goal is to do 3 drafts:

  • Rough smash-and-grab draft against a very clearly thought-out outline
  • Refinement draft and edit – Add sensory details and descriptions that I always leave out of my roughs, flesh out character motivations, make sure complete structure is there and the plot moves properly. Spell check.
    • (insert Beta readers and critique here)
  • Final-ish (mostly… hopefully) draft with reader feedback incorporated.

I’m somewhere in this process flow with a few stories, as well as the novel from last November.


Aside from the pantsing / plotting process,  I do have a few other process points that work well for me:

I make pretty detailed notes about my plot ideas all of the time. I try to determine their best medium pretty early on. (Is this a comic? A short story? A novel?)  And at that point, I start the basic outlines and character sketches.  I’ve already got enough of those to fill my writing hours for the next five years.

When I’m deep in writing, I write as long as it flows easily. If it gets hard, or I get frustrated, then it’s time to do something else. I wash the dishes, do a few yoga poses, take a walk, play with the dog. I use the metaphor of cooking across the entire stove top for this activity. I put a lid on it and let it simmer.  This is a definite key to my overall process.

I try to write at least 30 minutes a day. Even if it’s a crummy freewrite word sprint talking about my calves hurting and needing to do laundry. Thirty minutes. Show up. Words down.

Tools I like:

  • Preceden timeline tool. (Here is the Crash World timeline, in case you’re interested in what this looks like, and yes, that is a sequel to Salvaged that is hinted at on there…. Uncounted is the webcomic, and “Survived” and “Crashed” are short stories that are languishing in drafts somewhere.)
  • Scrivener writing app. I love that I can set up my outline in the text files, keep all of my research in one place, keep all of my notes where I can see them, and export to kindle format so my husband can beta.
  • Write or Die app.  I finally bought the desktop version. I like word sprints. I like them when I need to give the inner editor a bit of a break. I like them when the words are backed up and threatening to overflow.
  • Tom’s planner.com  – Not  joking about having a GANTT chart for my projects. Not even a little bit.  I use it in conjunction with W-SHIRT.

*dusts hands*

There. That processy enough for you?

Who’s Next?

I’m supposed to tag other bloggers for this part. But you know what? I’d rather call for volunteers. You want to write one? Write one, and I’ll give you a link and a spiffy bio thing.  Let me know in the comments so I can shout out for you.

5/12/2014 – update!  I got tagged for this effort by one of my favorite snarkalicious tweeps, Mandaray.  Here’s her post about her process.  Be sure to catch her regular hashtag feature #MandarayReads for a wholly entertaining rundown of what not to do while writing.

6 thoughts on “Writing Process… Wha? Huh?

  1. Ten?

    . . .

    Ten . . .

    I’m on 5 for “Manifestation,” and waiting to get it back from my editor before I see if I need a sixth. I hope to all gods I never need to do ten. Bless you.

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