Writing Process Blog Tour: How I Write

Welcome to my stop on the Writing Process Blog Tour!

I was tagged for this honor by Shari Bonin-Pratt, who has been a source of encouragement and camaraderie for me and who had some damn good ideas for improving my novel. Thanks, Shari! Please take some time to visit her blog, one of last week's Blog Tour stops.

Next week the blog tour visits my fellow writer Melissa Marsh. More on this talented woman later.

And now, with no further ado, my answers to the Blog Tour questions:

What am I working on at the moment?

Writing a Letter Home (1875) by George Goodwin Kilburne. Courtesy of Bonhams via  Wikimedia Commons .

Writing a Letter Home (1875) by George Goodwin Kilburne. Courtesy of Bonhams via Wikimedia Commons.

Not counting the freelance writing I do as my day job, I have three works-in-progress. Each is in a different stage of development. I have a novel, my first, which I'm polishing in preparation for the long querying road. I sketched out the first scenes of The Novel, as I call it, ten years ago. I finished Draft 3 a couple of weeks ago. I am very ready to get this baby done and send it out into the world.

Then I have a short story that I am revising. This particular story is a ghost story that placed first in its heat in the first round of the NYC Midnight 2014 Short Story Challenge. I really like the story and I've been blown away by the responses it has gotten from the challenge judges and my critique groups. So I'm working to flesh it out a bit, with hopes that I can eventually find a market for it.

Lastly, I just started a new piece of flash fiction inspired by the story of Achilles. If everything goes as planned, I'll be posting that story on the Fiction First page of this site on June 1st.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I'm going to skip the genre part of this question because I write in many genres. My short story files include tales of literary fiction, suspense, ghost stories, science fiction, fantasy, and romance. Then there's my novel, which is either magical realism or fantasy. I'm not sure on which side of the fence it falls. I can argue either case.

So what what makes my work different in general? I think it's my clean style. To paraphrase a colleague in one of my writers' groups, I pack a big punch in a few words. Of course, that means I'm also prone to using too few words--which is where my writing groups come in. They're great at pointing out where I've left gaps in the story and what needs more explanation or clarity.

Why do I write what I do?

My glib answer to this is, I write what the voices in my head tell me to. That's not entirely a joke. The narrative voice is always the first thing that comes to me. Sometimes that voice comes and goes very quickly and the story never gets off the ground. Sometimes that voice sticks around and becomes more and more insistent and the story takes off.

I write what I do because my head is a crowded place. Because there are an infinite number of characters who want to tell me an infinite number of stories. Because giving voice to those characters helps me find my own voice. Because if I didn't give voice to those characters, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night.

How does my writing process work?

Let's start with a clarification. I work as a freelance writer so I do write every day for hours at a time. However, when I say I write and when I explain why I write what I do and when I describe my writing process below, I'm really talking about writing fiction--the writing I do for me, rather than for my clients.

As for my (fiction) writing process, here's what I don't do: I don't write (my fiction) every day. I don't write (my fiction) for hours at a time. I don't set word count requirements for my (fiction) writing sessions. I don't set deadlines (for my fiction).

I write when I can. Sometimes that's 10 minutes at the end of a work day. Sometimes it's two or three hours or more on a weekend. Some days, if they've been long work days and my brain is fried and my eyes are tired or if it's a night when I have plans to actually go out into the world and interact with other human beings, I don't write at all.

Vally (1888) by Paul Hoecker. Courtesy of Gerhard Becker, Neuried via  Wikimedia Commons .

Vally (1888) by Paul Hoecker. Courtesy of Gerhard Becker, Neuried via Wikimedia Commons.

I joke that I write in a dark corner of my basement, because that's where my office is. But I really only do my day-job work there. That desk, that computer, those overflowing file drawers and bookcases, that small little window well, are so closely associated in my mind with my freelance writing that it's no longer conducive to writing my fiction. Instead, for my fiction, I grab my laptop and stretch out on my living room sofa, or go to the library, or grab a table at the Barnes & Noble cafe, or slide into a booth at Panera.

If I'm just starting a story or struggling with scene, I leave the laptop behind and grab my spiral notebook and pen. I find writing by hand is more effective when I need to work slowly, when the ideas aren't flowing. I write by hand until I get stuck, then I type what I've got into my computer. If the ideas start flowing again, I keep typing until I get stuck. Then I go back to pen and paper and repeat the process.

Another quirk of my process, especially for my novel, is that I don't always write my stories in chronological order. In other words, I don't start at the beginning and write scene after scene in the order they appear in the story. I write scenes as they come to me and once I have a collection, I arrange them in some semblance of order and start writing bridges between them.

I also like to have more than one thing going at a time, as you might have guessed from my answer to the first question. That way, if I get really stuck on one project, I can jump on another. If I'm puzzling out a big change on The Novel but only have ten minutes to write, I spend those ten minutes on whatever short piece I'm working on. If I have an hour or more, I might spend it all on The Novel or split it between projects. It all depends on my mood.

I guess, if I had to describe my writing process in one word, that word would be flexible.

Next week, the Writing Process Blog Tour will continue with Melissa Marsh.

Melissa's book

Melissa's book

Melissa earned an MA in history from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she focused on World War II. Her work has appeared in America in WWII magazine and her book on the POW camps in Nebraska during World War II is now out from The History Press. An avowed chocoholic, Melissa writes historical fiction set during World War II, combining her love for fiction and history. Visit her website: www.melissamarsh.net or follow her on Twitter @WW2HistoryGal.