Holy cats… I got tagged by the illustrious 2014 Kindle Book Awards nominee Sharon Bayliss to participate in the MyWritingProcess Blog Hop. It’s like some kind of social media contagion… I’m a carrier. I’ve been infected. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, Put me down before I turn!
Seriously, though, thanks to Sharon for tapping me to participate. I have plenty of opinions, and it’s rare that I’m actually invited to voice them. So… when I devour your brains, you all can thank her on Twitter @SharonBayliss.
Here’s a quick blurb of what this blog hop is all about: “We writers share these things, but informally during workshops and at conferences (and, for a handful of established writers, in printed interviews), but not so much through our open-forum blogs. With the hashtag #MyWritingProcess, you can learn how writers all over the world answer the same four questions. How long it takes one to write a novel, why romance is a fitting genre for another, how one’s playlist grows as the draft grows, why one’s poems are often sparked by distress over news headlines or oddball facts learned on Facebook…”
Here are my responses to the four questions:
1) What am I working on?
Right now, I’m roughly 38,000 words into a horror/western stand-alone novel with the working title of YEA THOUGH I WALK. It’s a creature feature set in the Wyoming Territory during the frontier expansion. In a nutshell, it’s vampires vs. wendigo vs. cowboys, with some serious mind-fuckery sprinkled throughout.
Meanwhile in the back of my head, I’ve been tossing around a rough skeleton for the third Dark Choir novel, THE CURSE MANDATE. I have larger points which will land, but it’s like trying to stitch together a dinosaur skeleton without knowing if the bones you’re sifting through all belong to the same dinosaur.
2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?
The genre of the Dark Choir series is categorized as Urban Fantasy. From my experience reading in the genre, The Dark Choir books play their magic way closer to the vest than some of the more visible properties out there… The Dresden Files, for example. The magic is far more subtle… you’ll never see Dorian Lake launch a plume of fire from the end of a staff, nor will you find vampires lurching around in feeding dens. The feedback I received from THE CURSE MERCHANT upon its initial self-published release seemed to echo the sentiment that it makes suspension of disbelief easy and immediate. This is precisely what I wanted… a world-building experience that was more similar to the recognizable real-world Baltimore than some parallel universe with witches and giant panda-bats.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I write the kinds of stories I’d want to read. Well… not ALL of the stories I’d want to read. I leave some of the next-level extreme science fiction to others better equipped. At least for the time being. I enjoy the atmosphere of the Dark Choir series. It’s a world into which I enjoy escaping, filled with fine liquors, engaging femmes fatale, and a protagonist I’d spend real time with in the real world.
And as for YtIW, it’s an ambitious novel… perhaps my most ambitious to date. It’s a period piece, and there are some storytelling conventions which require LOTS of attention and fore-planning. It’s rather like going to the gym for a nice, solid workout.
I write what I write because it’s an utterly immersive experience for me, and it’s a blast!
4) How does my writing process work?
Ho HO… glad you asked. Actually, loyal readers of the Fistful are pretty well-versed in my anal, left-brained system of spreadsheets and outlines. In case you’re new, here’s a flurry of links for you to check it out:
– I begin with an idea. I have enough story ideas to fill up an entire Word document, so I can’t expressly say how it works. They just come. I tend to bat the idea around in my head for several weeks before I can tell whether it has legs.
– Then I make a plot outline.
– Then I take the plot, flesh out bullet points into a list of scenes, and then make individual scene worksheets for each.
– Then I take each major character in the story, and cook up an extremely long and thorough character worksheet for each.
After that, I simply start drafting. By the end of the exhaustive pre-writing phase, sitting down to bang out word counts isn’t that difficult. The keys are to keep writing without stopping to edit, leave the polishing for a day after the first draft is complete, and spend “down time” (usually in the car during my commute) hashing out dialogue out loud. If anyone were in the car with me, they’d assume I was having a psychotic break.
When the first draft is complete, I let it age like a smelly piece of horrifying cheddar. When all emotional bonds between me and the manuscript have withered on the vine, I pick it up for a ground-up reread and revision pass. The first pass is spent hunting down plot holes, testing believability, pruning abandoned leads, and shoring up weak characterization.
On my second pass, I test for readability… pacing, dialogue, prosody. Yep… prosody. I end up reading quite a bit of the manuscript out loud. I’m surprised at how many people don’t do this. At the same time, I hammer it with a course editing mallet, catching the really glaring typos and misspellings.
With that entire process complete, I farm the manuscript out to my alpha reader (spoiler: it’s my wife). When she gives me all of her notes on plot and characterization, I tidy up the manny with a third pass, then send it out to my beta readers. I give them a month or two to really hash through it, wherein I tend to launch into my next project. Yep! These overlap.
When my betas come back with their notes, it’s time for the final plot revision pass and edit. Following this, it goes out to acquisitions… or at least it will when I get around to wrapping up YtIW.
There you have it. I try to write every evening after my boy hits the hay, and usually get between 1500 and 2000 words in per day. I tend to finish first drafts in the space of three months, not counting pre-writing.
ALRIGHTY, BUCKAROOS! I can feel the virus necrotizing my flesh, and the hunger for brains has become all-encompassing. Time to tap some people to spread the contagion, and share with the world their writing process. First on the meat-train:
HEATHER MARIE, YA Fantasy author. She’s always posting up “for reals” Tweets, and I bet she’ll be highly forthcoming with regards to her writing process. She has a pretty sweet novel coming out soon…
DEBRA DUNBAR, urban fantasy and paranormal fiction author, horse owner, and critique group partner. Debra is prolific with a capital FFFFFFFfffffff…. Her ragingly successful Imp series has garnered a legion of fans, and she just keeps pumping out the awesome. I bet her writing process includes way more Gatorade than mine.
SAM CURTIN, self-published author of paranormal horror, student of anthropology, and advocate for pagan interests. She’s got quite the full plate between work, study and her recent nuptials. I’m curious how she continues to make the word counts rain.
And of course… COURTNEY SLOAN, author of horror, sci-fi, urban fantasy, and my wife. I know her writing process… but YOU DON’T!!! So there.
Off to chew brain stems, kiddos… om nom nom…
The Dark Choir Series sounds really interesting! Is that what you’re publishing with CQ? What is your release date?
That’s right! Curiosity Quills picked up the Dark Choir series… the first book The Curse Merchant is due for release on September 15th. CQ also has the sequel, The Curse Servant, which will be released… later…
I’m going to have to take a poke through all of your writing tools later. Could be helpful!
This was a very interesting post. Though I already knew some of these things about you, I still feel like I know you a little better. 🙂
To be honest, a lot of this is SUPER left-brained and anal-retentive. It would match my kind of brain, but not necessarily anyone else… particularly a “pantser” style of writer.
Perhaps the most important aspect of all of these worksheets would be the scene worksheet… most specifically the conflicts/resolution within each scene, and outlining how each scene contributes to the overall piece.
This ensures that every chapter has its own rising action, and that every brick in the house has a purpose.
I tend to be a mixture of both pantser and plotter, though I admittedly lean more towards pantser. I would like more structure in my process, though, so I’m willing to delve into your anal retentiveness (this conversation just got ugly) to see what I can find. The scene worksheet sounds like it would be very helpful to me!