My Writing Process

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.

heart in the skyJenn 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?

LGMAliens. 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?

LTP 500[1]I write the stories I want to read. The process isn’t always as simple as that, but when it is, that’s when the words flow and the heart follows.

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.

TSC_Street_SignMy 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.

http://www.jennburke.com/

https://twitter.com/jeralibu

 

It’s the Snowpocalypse

It’s the snowpocalypse and, let me tell you, this is not the way I thought I would go. When imagining the apocalypse (something I do with disturbing frequency), I figured it would happen in one of two ways: dreaded disease or someone bombing the crap out of the United States. Both seem equally plausible, don’t they?

I have stocked the basement with supplies. We keep the camping gear down there. It has running water and heat (gas, in case the electricity fails), our huge collection of board games, daughter’s craft supplies, food (beans, beans and, for variety, some more beans) and water. If we get bored of board games, we can set up the tent, pretend we’re actually camping. Or, we can take turns pretending the elliptical machine is running. Imagine the workout you could get making that thing go with no electricity? We could stare at the blank TV screen, maybe play with our reflections. There’s a kickbag down there. We could take turns kicking and punching it. Or we could fight each other, as a measure of stress relief and to practice for the inevitable invasion of gun-toting survivalists who will be after our beans and board games.

I have looked into sealing the entrance with one of those sneaky false floors. Make the stairwell look like a closet, one with an innocuous keypad mounted on the inside wall. The floor would be really thick steel. Something only a dedicated post-apocalyptic burglar (or alien equipped with acidic saliva) could burn through. After all, we’ve only got beans to share.

We also have a weapon down there. A recurve bow with a slack string and about three arrows. The tip is hanging off one. I think we’ve shot it at too many trees. My daughter has a bow, too. A post Hunger Games ‘toy’ that is pink. Despite the wrongness of taking down a deer with a pink bow, that’s probably how it will happen, but only after we’ve enraged the mutated beast and it has finished trampling us.

The gas will run out before the beans, so we’ll have to freeze dry the strips of venison. We’ll know how to butcher it. I have a book. I do not have a strong stomach, but somehow I think that will be the least of my worries after the end of the world.

Or, I could just order three of these:

The video is in Japanese, but really, the pod speaks for itself. Sort of. There’s a pole inside, and dingy carpet. Do they expect us to while away the post apocalypse learning to pole dance? Or is that all we get to hold on to as our safe place rolls between disasters? I’ve already planned what to put in those handy compartments. (One of them would have to function as a toilet, wouldn’t it? Practical and gross.)

You know, these would be perfect for the snowpocalypse. They’re crush-proof, float and can withstand 9.3 tons of compressive pressure. Plunge distance is limited to 25m, so we’d have to cruise carefully around the Poconos. We could order them in white and travel incognito as big, shiny snowballs. The aliens (taking advantage of our weakened planet) might not recognize us. My mad family might end up as the rearguard of all humanity.

Scary thought, isn’t it.

I talked to my husband about the life armor and explained why we should order three. One for me and the cats, one for him and daughter and one as a spare. He wanted his own, of course. I predict we’d all end up in the one my daughter orders. The pink one. We can roll over the mad deer and play pinball with the aliens (hoping the toilet compartment doesn’t flip open).

Then, when the snow melts, my daughter can go back to school, I can write something other than crazy blog posts and my husband can return to his daily routine of gaming between conference calls.

Stay warm, everyone!

My Three Favourite Things

My three favourite things in fiction are: apocalypses, aliens and love stories. It’s an odd combination and you don’t often find all three in one book. Aliens and apocalypses can skip hand in hand down a desolate road together, but the end of the world isn’t necessarily a great time to fall in love. But a heart wants what a heart wants, and there is something about flinging people together in circumstance and seeing how they fall together (or apart).

To read more, please visit Urban Fantasy Investigations who were kind enough to host my rambling self today as part of the virtual book tour for Less Than Perfect.

(Image credit: Environment: POST-APOCALYPSE by inetgrafx)

Otherworldly Landscapes

I often feature photographs that seem to capture otherworldly landscapes. It’s a habit and a hobby to look at abstract images and wonder what they might be before finding out what they actually are. I imagine alien landscapes, or apocalypses. Far flung planets or obscure corners of our own. Sometimes the photos depict just that, landscapes that defy human imagination, our own alien landscapes right here on Earth. Sometimes the photos are so abstract they could be anything. Either way, I see stories. I think of these photographs as the landscapes of my many, imaginary worlds. No doubt, the photographers think somewhat the same.

I wonder what Andre Ermolaev saw when he captured this series of aerial photographs? Volcanic Iceland is the simple answer. Art is another. Each photo is art, but could also be a painting, the imagination of another artist preserved for all by the photographer.

Did he imagine a giant paintbrush? The scope of the photographs is amazing. Did he research the natural phenomena behind the artful landscapes? I imagine he did. Did he wonder, even if just for a second, if an unseen hand had shaped the land? That a space ship had left a contrail across the sand, or burned a passage through the ice, forever shaping our planet.

Reading his comments, it seems he was captured the by lines first and foremost. The patterns and the unique perspective of the aerial view. I like to think he imagined something more far-fetched, though, just for that brief second.

To view more of Andre Ermolaev’s stunning photography visit http://500px.com/andreabe and http://andreabe.fishup.ru/.

Ramble: Dumb Worries

I recently read an article highlighting the 150 or so things definitively smart people worry about. Actually, I didn’t finish reading it. I got bored by number thirty-one, mostly because I didn’t understand some of the answers and others seemed designed to make me feel stupid. Yet others questioned the question and a couple actually made me giggle. I started skimming after the reminder of small apocalypses. I worry about those all the time, I don’t need a reminder smart people are worrying about them as well.

The list, produced by an the online magazine called Edgewhich has been described as smartest website in the world–has been condensed for better digestibility by Vice and begins with: The proliferation of Chinese eugenics, the concern of evolutionary psychologist, Geoffrey Miller. In the first instance, I had never heard of evolutionary psychology. I think I can nut that one out, though. In the second instance, I had to look up eugenics. The word was familiar and in certain context, I might have caught the meaning. Here? No. Thankfully, I have the internet. Right, according to Wikipedia:

Eugenics is the applied science of the bio-social movement which advocates practices that improve the genetic composition of a population, usually a human population.[2][3]

So, wild guess: Mr. Miller is concerned about the (a) practice of genetic manipulation in China? I could be completely off the mark, but assuming I’ve hit the edge of the dart board, I sort of understand the concern. Genetic manipulation could produce some viable nightmares. There are moral issues, sure. It could also produce some pretty fascinating advances in health and medicine. From a writer’s perspective… There are too many ideas to write down. I’ll forget them all before Evernote opens. There is a full explanation of the answer available at Edge. Given I barely understand the concept, I’m not sure I’d understand the rest, however.

Am I being deliberately dumb? Not really, I’m just being lazy, and that’s another worry dictated by the list.

Continue reading “Ramble: Dumb Worries”