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Writing Process Blog Tour 2014

Today is my day for the Writing Process Blog Tour, a blog tour where various writers discuss what they are working on and their process, tag the writer who talked them into it and finds other writers to participate. You, the reader, get to follow the various links to discover new writers. I’d like to thank Michael Merriam for asking me to take part. His own post is here.

And there you will get to discover that I'm lazy enough to copy and paste his intro, because he is awesome and I am lazy today, and late doing this.

What Am I Working On?
What I am not working on? Sadly, werewolves, at the moment. But they're not dead, merely resting, along with some other things until after we move my mother into a different facility next week. In the meantime, I’ve got 4 anthology invites that I’m working on stories for, plus the new short fiction collection proposal and the recently completed novel that wants revising, lots of revising. Also floating about: a nonfiction book proposal that wants to get jumpstarted, plus a new guest blog for SF Signal on LGBT SF/F in the 1990s.

How Does My Work Differ From Others Of Its Genre?
Umm…judging from the list above, I can apparently self-diagnose for ADD, but still get things done? Seriously, I’m decently good at compartmentalizing and finishing work. I’m not always very good at organizing it, something I’m trying to correct. I’m also in the process of moving from being a pantser to being at least a high level outliner, so that’s new.

I’m reasonably prolific, particularly with regard to short fiction and articles. Novels take me longer, unsurprisingly. But I like to work on multiple projects at the same time: it keeps me engaged and helps me learn as I go along.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

Your mileage varies. Some stories I write because editors or publishers asked for stories and the call or theme inspired me. Some stories I write because they’re boiling around in my brain and they need a way out. What do I write? Fantasy, erotica, science fiction, romance, dark fantasy/horror, nonfiction and random stuff. What do they all have in common? I generally, but not always, write about characters who are LGBT or Q because those are the characters that speak to me the loudest. Most of my characters are women or mostly female-identified. Why? I like women and I think that there should be better female characters out there. Do I have any overarching themes? Change fascinates me, as does how others perceive those changes. I love writing about transformations of various kinds.

How Does Your Writing Process Work?
Well, it’s evolving at the moment. It used to be: write most of the day almost every Sunday, do plotting and marketing and short scenes a couple of nights during the week after work. Now it’s more like: grab every minute I can for everything, spend a few minutes here or a few minutes there writing or revising, then move on to the next thing. If I have a whole free hour or two, I sit down and crank on a specific word count.

Our cats also influence my process. Since we got our cats, I do most of my writing on the couch, using my Netbook on my lap desk, because it is hard to share the office chair with 1 gigantic and one regular size cat, both squirming and begging for attention (and they heave themselves against the closed door and howl if I’m on the other side). I think this change lends itself well to short pieces, less so to long ones. Training the cats gets me nowhere, so I’m trying to retrain me. It seems to be working but we’ll see how it goes for the next novel-length work.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my part of this blog hop/tour. I now pass the baton off to the lovely and talented Angela Korra’ti, who has a new fantasy novel out this week from her alter ego, Angela Highland. If you would like to be tagged, for a post, let me know and I’ll add you here.

 

 

                                                        

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I got the two novel proposals done! And submitted! And created a new email addy for "new me" (my pseudonym, about which more later)/
Things I had to learn in the last 3 months - how well I learned them remains to be seen but I'm told I will find out soon:
  • How to write a novel outline for a book that doesn't exist yet You can still be a pantser and do this, by the way. It just has to make sense, which my first drafts didn't always do.
  • How to write a novel proposal (maybe). It definitely got easier by the time I got to the third one in a row. I could see where the holes and logical gaps where and where I'd lost track of the formula for this particular market.
  • Formula? Yep. It's a lesson I learned a while back but had gotten away from. Every genre and subgenre has a series of formulas (try reading bestsellers for examples). It's not written in stone, your work doesn't need to completely tow every line, but marketing and selling as easier if the work falls within the scope of what the majority of genre readers read. This is not necessarily the same as what publishers, publicists or Amazon thinks is the formula for a given genre, just saying. I look at  reviews and reader responses when I want to know what readers go far. I also make sure that I'm doing some reading in the genre I want to write.Other writers and editors are often your best teachers. That said, don't follow the formulas if they're not your thing and dare to build your own.
  • Find amazing beta readers. it helps so much.
  • What do my outlines look like right now? I think this will be an evolving process. Currently: title, genre, projected length, list of main characters, overview of events. Worldbuilding elements are their own section, as is backstory. I'll post one in a week or so here as an example of a pantser learning to outline.

So now I wait. And write the first book, rigorously applying the outline I said I was following. i realized the other day that I was overdoing it and had lost some humor and spontaneity that I wanted in there. Back to revising to change the tone enough that I liked it better, and so far, I think it's a big improvement.
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So I meant to post these about once a week. Then every two weeks. Now I think I’m up to about once a month. That said, clearly the next thing I should talk about is time management since lizardlez inquired about how it is that I do what I do. Namely, this refers to my ability or lack thereof to juggle an often full-time + day job, a relationship, some semblance of a social life and what passes for my writing career, along with a full helping of publicity-related activities. The last category covers everything from blogging to science fiction conventions to readings to the occasional workshop, plus website time, mailing list time, Facebook, RedRoom and assorted other things.

 

The short answer: I don’t sleep much.

 

The long answer: I juggle a lot. This was easier when I first started writing due in part to a lack of externally imposed deadlines for my fiction (nonfiction was and is a different animal). No one was requesting a piece of writing or interviews or panels from me. I tried for publications that looked interesting, generally anthologies, and wrote pieces I thought might fit and turned them in before the deadline. Writing time was all day Sunday and maybe one or two evenings a week. Weeknights were also time for revising and whatever publicity I needed to do at the time. I was also fortunate enough to get 3 writing residencies early on, which meant the luxury of whole weeks of writing time.

 

Once I started selling stories, that all began to change. Editors started asking for stories and I began writing to deadline for both fiction and nonfiction. I could still stick with the same writing schedule though, just amped up a bit. This lasted until I dealt with my first written-mostly-from-scratch book, Crave. For Crave and the 5 other nearly simultaneous deadlines I had in 2006, I wrote nearly every day and most of Sunday. Saturday was and remains the sacred day of errand running and other miscellaneous activities.

 

Around the time that Crave came out (early 2007), my presence as a panelist/reader began to be requested more often at conventions. I tripled the amount of publicity I was doing, adding social network sites, several mailing lists, and a semi-regular reading and paneling schedule. The regular writing schedule began to deteriorate because there were other deadlines and commitments to be met. Then I tried my hand at editing in 2008 and that ate up lunch times at work, as well as most evenings and Sunday.

 

It also ate up my writing time, which was not a particularly happy thing. It isn’t that I didn’t like editing, but that on my first time through I hadn’t figured out how to balance it with writing time. Judging from my chats with other writer/editors, it’s a pretty common problem.

 

Thus we arrive at the Now. Now, I’ve virtually given up on a regular writing schedule. I have too much to get done so I just grab whatever time I can. I may spend lunch time doing research and the occasional break outlying the next project. But writing is starting to take over once more. I’m writing a novel, you see, and I find that I write bits of it in my head all the time, then put it down on paper when I get the chance. I’ve only just begun to carry whole scenes in my head like this so the whole composing things all the time is very new. I still try to reserve part of Sundays for writing time but it doesn’t always work out. Same goes for weeknights.

 

Overall, though, I’d say the answer to the question is that I prioritize as best I can and am very grateful that I have the opportunity to set my own priorities at least some of the time.

catherineldf: (Default)
Because I did say I was going to do this and I am a woman of my word. Most of the time, anyway.
I'll start out with transitions, since Pamela brought that up as a topic. Later on, there'll be more fun posts on things like time management, writing in multiple genres and whatever else occurs to me or someone asks. And anything I say in these posts applies to me and may or may not work for anyone else. It may not work for me either but if it's here, I'm wrestling with it.

At the moment, speaking of transitions, I'm moving from being primarily a short form writer to being a long form writer. What this means is that most of my oeuvre to date has been short fiction - 1000-7000 words - and short articles. I've completed a couple of novelettes and novellas - 15,000 to 20,000 words to date but now I'm hankering for novel length. The tally thus far - 20,000 words of werewolf novel in progress; 50,000 words of alternate Regency currently on hiatus but may come back to life soon; 30,000 words of off the wall fantasy novel about multiple types of personified death - think "Dead Like Me," only a lot more angsty in a fantasy setting. Also more or less on hiatus with occasional bursts of activity; and then there's several thousand words here and there of other things that may grow up to be looooong someday.

This is in comparison to the 60 short stories, 2 novellas and 30 or so articles and essays that I've had published, plus the few that haven't seen the light of day - estimated grand total is something like 350,000 - 400,000 words. I kind of suck at keeping those kinds of records so I don't know for sure. Working on that too.

Since short fiction has been my thing for quite awhile now (1996 to present), when I write longer pieces, I do them scene by scene because that's how I learned to write in short form. Things occur to me, often when I'm doing other things, and I add them to a story when I get a chance. I'm generally working on multiple pieces at the same time, so at any one given point in time, I may be writing scenes for 2-3 different stories or novels in progress. Given that, everything comes out of the back of my brain in chunks. This can be anything from a paragraph to full chapters. I'm not terribly good at outlining so that's something else I'm working on. The advantage to doing this is that things usually flow together reasonably well, at least up to 20-30,000 words; we'll see how it goes when I get to bigger stuff.

I'm finding that what I write makes some difference in how I write it, but not much. Plot isn't usually the most important aspect of short form erotica, but things like voice, description and setting are. But the more plot you have, the more your work stands out, as a rule. Romance and sf/f require all of that, plus longer and sometimes more elaborate story arcs, world building and in my case, historical scene-setting. So while I'm writing linear scenes, transitioning through time, space, POVs, etc., I'm also going back and adding details at earlier points in the story.

Other things I have tried that involved transitions - a novel that switches character perspectives every chapter. This would be the alt. Regency. One of the reasons that's bogged down was that I got wildly happy with subplots and everyone's perspective on them and lost track of my plot arcs. The fun part has been getting to spend time in each character's head, developing their own adventures as it twere. The not so fun part - getting to spend time in each character's head, trying to figure out how to tie it all together.
Some of the same problems going on with the other fantasy novel in prog as well, thought I got that one down to 2 POVs instead of the 4 in the Regency.

The werewolf novel has lots of time and some place transitions but is always from the same POV. For the most part, I'm switching chapters on these kinds of transitions rather than putting in the ever popular "Time passed." I'm finding that's working fairly well thus far. Then again, sometimes I just put in scene breaks to get from one point to another. For my alternate history short story "Great Reckonings, Little Rooms" which is about the death of Christopher Marlowe and the authorship of Shakespeare's plays, I'm using act and scene notes to suggest a play. For other pieces, like my novella "Beauty," I tried to work the time transitions in as part of the story. The POV character moves around in space, time and development as one more or less continuous story arc with no obvious scene breaks. In theory, I prefer this method but in practice I vary it a lot.

Thoughts? Questions (on this topic specifically)? Fire away!


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