I read about a “Creative Process Blog Tour” over at Susan Perry’s blog, wherein different creative types are answering a set of questions about their process in their blogs. (Susan Perry is author of Writing in Flow, although I first discovered her through Loving in Flow, which I read after I became engaged and started freaking about doing this whole marriage thing “right.”)
I was not officially invited to this blog tour, as Susan implies that she was, but that’s too bad. I’m inviting myself!
WRITING PROCESS SELF-Q&A:
1) What are you working on?
Right now, I’m preparing my novella, Rumpled, for release as an ebook and paperback at the beginning of March. I’m corresponding with beta readers about their feedback and early reviews, brainstorming promotional avenues, and going over the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, generating new ebook and paperback files every time I make a change to the master. The real deadline and the real people waiting on the book’s release have me spending more hours per day in “writing time” than I’m used to, but I’m enjoying it — learning a lot and energized by the opportunity to do something different from what I’m used to doing with my writing time. It’s exciting to be taking this step.
With that said, I’m more of a writer than a marketer, and I need actual writing in my life. So I’ve been blogging a lot at Booklikes, journaling daily, and keeping up my blogging commitments here and at Young Adult Catholics. Still, I am absolutely itching to start working on a long-term project again, and look forward to returning to my second draft of my Rapunzel retelling when this big push is behind me.
2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I often think of my writing as existing somewhat “between.” One of the reasons I decided to self-publish Rumpled is because it exists in an awkward space between being a novel and a short story, and novellas don’t have a clearly defined market. Most of my writing falls along the speculative fiction continuum, whether it dabbles in magical realism or takes place in a totally imagined realm. Still, many people perceive genre fiction as being primarily “plot driven,” whereas I’m stronger in characterization and the actual weave of language. Stylistically, my work has leanings toward literary fiction, but I’m so irritated by literary fiction avoiding or downplaying the sci-fi/fantasy label that I embrace it fully. A lot of great literature has come from science fiction and fantasy, and I always consider my work speculative fiction first, literary second.
Although I often don’t go into my writing planning to tackle a certain theme or issue, I do use speculative fiction to explore the human condition, dwelling especially on issues of religion, spirituality, sex and sexuality, and gender.
I feel it’s somewhat arrogant to say that this is something that sets my work apart from others in its genre, since there are lots of great pieces of speculative fiction (that aren’t afraid to embrace the label) with brilliant character development and beautiful writing. I guess I just mean to say that I don’t feel totally defined by the conventions of genre. I read across many genres, and I think this keeps my writing from becoming too “stuck” in any particular formula.
3) Why do you write what you do?
Because it is the thing that wants to be written, I guess. I find that I usually have to read a certain kind of book for years before it has sunk into my subconscious deeply enough for me to attempt something of my own along a similar vein. I’ve found that what I’m obsessed with reading usually leads to a similar writing project a few years down the road, by which time I’ve often moved on to a different “reading” obsession. I started reading fantasy heavily about two years before I wrote my first fantasy novel; I read retellings for about twelve years before I wrote one; I was drawn to post-apocalyptic/dystopia and science fiction and fantasy with religious themes about eight years before I tackled them myself. These days, I’m reading a lot of non-fiction, and wondering where that might take my writing several years from now.
Right now, I’m very interested in retellings, with about five ideas that I’d like to put to paper at some point. Certain stories have stayed with us for thousands of years because they speak deeply to what it means to be human, and I find delving into them to be as satisfying as creating something totally from scratch — all plots and themes have already been written, and everything we add is just our own “spin” on a few basic plots and themes. It’s that “spin” that makes something uniquely your own, not the plot or themes per se.
Always, I write about the questions that I wrestle with, that I think all humans wrestle with — how we make meaning of our lives, how we decide what is important to us, how we come to believe what we believe and how and why those belief systems change. These themes come through after I’ve begun writing rather than before, although sometimes I’ll have an idea of the theme I want to explore when I start a new project. Although I rarely write realistic fiction, my real-life concerns infuse my speculative fiction, and much of my characters’ emotional realities are based on my own experiences.
4) How does your writing process work?
I try to write something every day, or at least five days a week. My writing thrives on routine, so I have difficulty working on long-term projects while I am in a period of personal transition — moving, getting married, changing jobs. In those times, I often have to pull back from the “life of the imagination” to fully process my own life, and I funnel my writing energy toward journaling rather than stop writing during that time. When I’ve got a good routine in place, I try to blog two to three times per week, journal at least once a week, and work on my long-term project (usually a novel) two to three times per week. Setting up a schedule helps me move forward even when I have multiple projects on the go, and it lets me tend to the “outward facing” aspects of writing (blogging, book reviews, marketing, etc.) as well as the writing I need to do for my spirit (journaling).
I don’t like writing first drafts, so I try to get through them as swiftly as possible. I find that NaNoWriMo works well for this because I can get the whole first draft on the page in one month rather than dragging that excruciating process out over a year or more. For me, the magic comes in the process of revision, of having something more to work from than a blank page. I don’t mind that it takes me a year or more to revise something I wrote in a month, because I find the revision part of writing so rewarding.
Just this week, I have started doing Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” (filling three pages longhand before doing anything else) because I am currently reading her wonderful The Right to Write. I haven’t seen whether this is a habit that will stick or how it might affect the rest of my life, writing or otherwise. I’m always, always seeking ways to get more writing into my life.