Every writer has a process, from where they get their ideas to how they eventually encourage each spark into a story. We use different words and have a preference for different naming conventions. We write in varied genres. We deal with success differently. I think failure depresses all of us, even when we’re posting motivational quotations on Twitter. But we each move at our own pace. The best part? Give a handful of writers—no, a thousand writers the same idea and you would end up with a thousand different stories.
This post is part of a blog hop. Last week, fellow Entangled author Heather McCollum detailed her writing process. This week, I’m going to share mine. Next week, my friend and frequent writing partner, the soon-to-be-published Jennifer Burke is going to share hers. I hope you’ll take the time to visit their blogs and ‘read all about it’. Both are talented writers whose stories I really enjoy.
Now it’s time to talk about my writing.
What am I working on?
Currently, I’m in the middle of two projects. I often write more than one story at once. I think a lot of writers do. That way, when one voice falters, another is ready to speak up. Usually.
Jenn and I just finished writing the second book of the science fiction romance series we’re writing together. Briefly, the story follows the journey of two people who are reunited after an interspecies war. Each believed the other was dead, or close to it. Each carries indelible scars. They have a lot to figure out, together and apart, before they can reclaim the friendship of their childhood and the relationship they started nine years before.
My solo project is a contemporary romance novel about a chance meeting between a man and a woman from two quite different worlds. They’re both from Earth—this isn’t one of my science fiction adventures, though the setting lends the book an air of fantasy. My hero and heroine meet on a flight to Las Vegas. He’s an actor; she’s an artist and a mother. Recently divorced, Arienne is hesitant about dating. Jackson isn’t used to the word “no”, but he does like a challenge. As they work their way toward friendship and more, Arienne confronts old doubts and new fears and Jackson learns something very important about himself.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Aliens. I have a thing for aliens and apocalypses. I’ve written at length about both before, but to summarize, aliens are mirrors and apocalypses are blank canvases. An alien doesn’t need to be from another world, it can be any character different enough to reflect the humanity of the hero/heroine, regardless of quirks, faults and foibles. I love that juxtaposition. I also love creating alien species. We don’t really know what’s out there, so it’s a great chance to let your imagination run wild. We do have some ideas on what is and isn’t possible, however, which makes the creation of an alien an exercise in logic. Even the most bizarre aliens have to be somewhat relatable.
Apocalypses in fiction are an illustration of our fears and our culture. I prefer the period after the apocalypse, however, the part where we’ve been reduced to dust and have to rebuild. Will we make the same mistakes, or will we build something entirely different? Or, will we attempt to build something different only to discover the patterns of civilization and humanity are deeply ingrained?
If you’ll take a leap sideways with me, building a relationship can be a bit like rebuilding civilisation. Dramatic much? No, not really. When we pick up a romance novel, we’re generally looking for a happy ever after, but we don’t want to be led straight there. We need to feel the character’s journey—often, the more trying, the better, so that when the happy moment arrives, it’s blurred by tears.
Not all my stories contain aliens and apocalypses, but I like to imagine they all have that journey, a process of someone rebuilding themselves and then reaching out, or of two people taking that step together.
Why do I write what I do?
I also write what I do read. My taste in fiction is rather wide and varied. I read a lot of science fiction (no, really). Honestly, I’d have to say SF is my first love. Far flung futures and worlds, us being out there among the stars. I love the idea that we’ll still be here in a million years and that we’ll be spread across the galaxy, even if we’re doing very mundane things. I also like reading about us doing those very mundane things in new and interesting ways.
When I’m in the mood for an epic journey or a long, drawn out coming of age story, I turn to fantasy or historical fiction. When I want to have my heart strings plucked, I read romance.
There is a common denominator, however: I love love stories and if a novel of science fiction, fantasy or history includes an element of romance, I’m twice as likely to pick it up. I think love is a powerful motivator. Some of the greatest stories in the history of our world are love stories.
So, yeah, that’s why I write sometimes speculative stories that often include strong romantic elements.
How does my writing process work?
Hell if I know. Honestly, sometimes I just have no idea how the words got onto the page, or where that subplot came from or how I even knew to write a scene just like that. There’s a zone and when you slip into it, a story writes itself.
I do have a definite process, though.
My ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. The name of a street (yes, really) to a snippet of news. Books I’ve read, dreams, movies, character types and situations. A meal. My own hobbies. My fantasies. Oh, yeah. The contemporary romance I described above? That is TOTALLY one of my fantasies. (Sorry, DH.)
I jot down my ideas as soon as I can and I often revisit them to add snippets of dialogue or character names and traits. Plot ideas and complications. Tidbits of world building. A vague outline which becomes more developed over time. Then, eventually, one or another of these ideas becomes such an insistent knock that I have to answer and so the story begins. After I’ve written the first chapter, I then revisit my outline and solidify it. I also create character profiles in the hopes my characters will remain consistent.
Next up is the goal-setting phase where I determine how much, ideally, I’d like to write per week. I don’t aim for daily totals. Rather, I set a weekly goal for each project, meaning I can write four thousand words one day and ten words the next. It’s a system that works for me. I do well with deadlines, but I also know that I cannot write on command. I can push it sometimes. Write myself into the mood. There have definitely been times when that discipline has been required. But I generally find writing a joy and so have little difficulty in meeting my goals.
When I’m writing combat, I often illustrate the battle using movable pins so I can keep angle of attack and momentum in my head. I study martial arts, so if I’m writing hand-to-hand fights, I will get up and act them out. I ask my husband embarrassing questions about his genitals ALL the time. I also quiz him on word choices and attitudes for my male characters. When writing younger characters I turn to my daughter for help. I also research anything I’m not an expert on—which is everything. I’m sure I get it wrong sometimes and what I read doesn’t always make it to the page. But so long as I know what my characters can and cannot do, they do. They can lie about it, sure. But research allows them to lie more convincingly.
After all that, I just write. Most of what I do is just writing. I do edit while drafting, but try to resist temptation to rewrite anything unless it’s just not working. After writing, the real work beings: editing. Editing sucks, but it’s a necessary evil. Still, there does come a point where you have to sit back and say enough is enough. I long ago accepted that none of my stories would be perfect, but I do want them to be good. I want to be proud of them.
Okay, that’s enough rambling. If you’re still here and would like to read something I have written, check out my Bookshelf. If you’d like to chat about writing and reading, don’t be shy! Scroll to the bottom of my About page for ways to contact me. Finally, please take the time to visit with Jenn next week to learn about her writing process.
Jenn lives outside of Ottawa, Ontario with her husband, two kids, and her writing “helper”, Alenko the husky. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, playing video games, and getting caught up in teeny-bopper shows like Teen Wolf…where she’s discovered she’s finding the dads more attractive than the main characters. That’s what happens when geeks get older.