I love musing about, writing on and discussing the creative process—mine and others. My favorite writing books focus more on process than craft since we all come at it from different perspectives in order to arrive at the same place— getting our words onto the page and out into the world.
So when I was asked by the lovely Deborah Brasket to participate in this Writing Process Blog Hop, I was thrilled. Deborah lives on the central California coast where she writes fiction, poetry and writing inspired by the natural world. Visit her blog, Living on the Edge of the Wild where she explores “the borderlands that lay between the human and the more-than-human worlds, and the ways they overlap and mirror each other.”
Now, I am supposed to tag 3 more writers to participate. After asking my entire Twitter and Facebook communities, plus reaching out to many writers personally, I have not found anyone able to participate.
So… consider this a shout-out tag. Anyone who has not participated yet and wants to, please leave me a comment. I will do another post highlighting you along with a link to your contribution to the Blog Hop. Seriously. Let me know. Let’s keep this going. We all benefit from sharing our writing and creatives process.
Here are the questions:
What are you working on?
I like having several projects going at once, just as I always read several books at once—different genres of different lengths to fit my current mood and time frame. Having several writing projects allows me to take a break from one, letting it simmer and percolate while not allowing my writing momentum to stagnate.
1. I just finished a revision of a novel-in-stories, “Learning Curve.” I am in the process of writing an agent query letter and getting it ready to submit. The stories follow the life of Martha Jane Fiske from age 10 through adulthood who, after her parents’ divorce, is left in the unfamiliar and awkward care of a father who has been somewhat on the periphery of her life and is now at the center. Marty (a new name to match the new identity she tries on like it’s an accessory) finds herself slowly yet intently gravitating away from that center, as she looks to fill the gaping hole her mother’s departure left with anything and anyone who makes her feel like she is enough. The novel explores identity and the complexities of motherhood and marriage and the ways we struggle to define ourselves in the midst of living complicated, unpredictable lives.
2. I wrote a novel for NaNoWriMO several years ago. I still love the characters and feel drawn to their stories. While I have a draft, I feel I am rewriting it more than revising. It is still untitled which tells me I haven’t unearthed the heart of the story yet. I am still struggling with the structure as it is told form the POV of several different characters after the unexpected death of their husband and father.
3. I’ve jotted notes and scenes for a YA Fantasy I am kind of in love with but am not ready to discuss at any length. All I can say is that it involves guardian angels.
4. I have many short stories in various stages of completion. I love the compactness of a story. I love that it can be written and shared in a relatively short amount of time.
5. I am a columnist for elephant journal where I write at least one post a week. I have also volunteered to edit several pieces a week for them as I learn so much from editing others’ writing.
6. Then there is my own blog, which I have been trying to give more consistent love and attention.
How does your work differ from others in its genre?
For the most part, I write literary fiction, which Ron Carlson defines as “a story that deals with the complicated human heart with an honest tolerance for the ambiguity in which we live.” So, I try to enter the complicated hearts of my characters and their stories with that kind of honest tolerance. I don’t believe in neat, tidy, tied-up-in-a-bow kind of endings. I try to follow my characters instead of my ego, letting them show me the way.
Why do you write what you do?
I don’t set out to write on any particular theme though I do see certain themes emerge in many of my stories: motherhood, marriage, identity, faith. I write what needs to be written, what bubbles up from inside of me. Characters and scenes often emerge when I am playing with writing prompts. I sit down without any agenda, just to play and see what happens. I trust that the stories I need to tell will reveal themselves at the right time.
How does your writing process work?
Calling it a “process” is a very flattering term for I what I actually experience. I feel like it’s a much more intuitive, fly-by-the-seat of my pants kind of space where I honor the ebb and flow of my particular creative process.
I write most everything in longhand first. I feel more connected to my writing that way. Often, I start with prompts that then turn into characters, conversations, scenes. Once I have a collection of these, I sit down and type them up, seeing where I’m at. Is it a story? A novel? A novel-in-stories? I make notes of what I like, what is missing, what questions I have and use those as little assignments for myself. I try to keep on top of typing all these bits and pieces up because typing is not my favorite thing. Once I have a draft, I let it sit—could be for days, weeks or even months. I need enough time to pass so that I can look at it and almost forget that I wrote it.
Then the same process starts all over again. Read it with pen in hand, making notes to myself as if I am workshopping a piece from somebody in my writing group. Once that draft is done, I’ll show it to my group to get their input—incorporating what resonates with me, trusting my instinct as to what that may be.
As far as when and how much I write on any given day…well, I don’t stick to any rigid, consistent schedule. Or if I do, it’s for a set amount of time. When I was revising my novel-in-stores for a contest, I worked almost daily, usually at the bookstore (away from dishes, TV, laundry) and I would work for 45 minutes, break for 15. I’d do up to 5 sets of these. It worked at the time, but I haven’t really used that since. Not to say that I won’t again.
Another part of my process involves keeping a notebook for each WIP. I’ll write from prompts in there, focused on specific characters. I’ll brainstorm names or plot possibilities. I’ll ask questions, track my progress for the day, write new scenes coded with a letter and a page number so I know where in the ms to insert it.
Daily yoga and meditation nurture my writing process, allowing my mind to stay focused and all my energy to flow.
The most important part of my process involves showing up. I wrote these intentions at the beginning the year instead of resolutions and I find they have been a beacon for my writing:
1. I write daily with courage, an open heart and compassion for the ebb and flow of the creative process.
2. I devote myself to my writing time with focus, clarity, passion and joy.
3. I connect with other writers in person and on-line for encouragement and support.
4. I commit to sharing my words by sending them out into the world again and surrender the outcome to the Universe.
5. I continue a daily meditation and yoga practice that allows my writing life to flourish.
So, that’s it. That’s what my writing process looks like today. It could be totally different next year, next month or even next week.
How about you? Interested in sharing your process? Please leave a link in the comments. We’d all love to hear what works for you.