It feels like I see this meme around everywhere right now and trying to find three people who haven’t done it yet and aren’t yet invited was actually a challenge. I myself was invited by my friend Chele Cooke who discussed her writing process last week. I also want to mention Kelly Matsuura who’s turn it was also this week and who would have been on my list of invitees otherwise.
I also want to apologize for posting this a day late. I was without internet for a couple of days – yes, the horror! – and only just found my way back online.
My Writing Process
1) What am I working on?
I’m currently in-between manuscripts in terms of writing, actually. I finished Trading Tides (the sequel to Driftwood Deeds) a few weeks ago and I haven’t quite decided what to write next – mostly because I wrote up a storm last year and had a bad case of first drafts piling up on my hard-drive.
Instead, I’ve been working on a couple of short stories for submission calls, and most time-intensively, I’ve finally been editing. First Where the Wind Settles (a contemporary lgbt-ish YA I wrote last year), then Trading Tides, and right now, I’m working on the edits and rewrites for By the Light of the Moon, which I will re-release in May.
As for my next project, I honestly don’t know. It’s quite likely, though, that I’ll start working on the last installment of the Breaking in Waves series just to finish that up. It will be called Saltwater Skin and return Iris and Paul back to his seaside village a few months after the end of Trading Tides. In contrast to Driftwood Deeds and Trading Tides, however, Saltwater Skin will be told from Paul’s point of view.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I have been thinking a lot about people’s personal literary heritage. I grew up reading Michael Ende and Ottfried Preussler, two German giants of children’s fiction and both loyally committed to telling fantastic stories – stories with monsters and heroes, with ghosts and time-thieves, books full of the allegories only speculative fiction can reveal like this. It took me a long time to like books set in real world, and by the time I did, I read classics and contemporary fiction. I basically went from Middle Grade to Literary Fiction and I missed out everything in between. I’ve never read much genre fiction and by time I tried to, I was so used to the beautiful melody and cadences of masterful writing, that I found it challenging to be swept up in it.
But I still love fantastic stories and speculative worlds. And I love writing erotica for what it means about women and empowering us in shaping a clearer idea of what turns us on. So, the truth is, that while I love writing genre fiction, I still don’t read a lot of it, and I think that accounts for what makes my stories different.
I like to write about people who aren’t glamorous or all-powerful. I like them to have mental issues, or odd flaws. I like them honest and raw, dirty and complex, and I like to try bring a sense of my literary heritage in my own prose. I care about empowering women and minorities, about being honest about sex and people, about all kinds of things that find their way into my writing.
I may also have a less than normal desire for fast pacing, action and genre restrictions. I love meandering, character-driven tales, and I love crossing genres. That’s also what I like reading, and in the end, I suppose that’s what I try to do: to write what I want to exist in my reading landscape. Sometimes that is risky, and sometimes it pays off.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I write what I write because it excites me. That’s really all there is to it. I can’t make myself work on something as time-intensive and personal as a novel without loving it, without feeling moved by what I want to achieve. That’s also why I refuse to stick to one genre – sometimes I just need the thrill of the new.
I also write what I feel currently capable of writing. Sometimes, I have an idea, a really good one and it spins into a fabric of story in my head — and at some point I realize that I just don’t have the skill to write that yet. Then I make extensive notes and let it rest and maybe one day I’ll get back to it. Writing teaches me something new all the time, and some ideas I feel capable of realizing right now, and others feel still too big, too complex to tackle.
4) How does my writing process work?
To be honest, I’m still working on that one, tweaking it a little with each manuscript, and I’m beginning to think that a process that works for one idea, just doesn’t for another one and then I have to make adjustments. Writing, to me, is such a living, breathing thing, it’s hard to cage it into one clear process to follow. Roughly, however, it tends to go like this:
1. Spark and Percolation
I will have an idea – actually I usually have lots of those and only a few ever make it anywhere. That’s what percolation is for. I’m always working on something and whatever the idea, I can’t just start – I don’t work that way. I’m too OCD to let a half-finish manuscript lie around while I start a new one. So I have time to turn it over and over in my head, to make a few notes, think about it some more etc.
I usually start out with a setting or a general theme – then I flesh out the characters, figure out a plot etc. and for a long time that all stays a kind of imaginary construct with a few notes so I won’t forget.
I don’t always go over into planning like this. Quite often, I will write a few chapters and then plan – just because I need to get a feel for where the narrative is going before I can do this. Or I will know the ending, but only actively plan the next few chapters at a time.
However, most likely – I’ll do a rough, full plan of the novel. Sometimes I like to work with the 3-act-structure just to help me along, at other times, the plot is so clear in my head already that I don’t need any aids.
I have noticed, though that I have a MUCH easier time writing when I have a rough idea of each chapter: who is in it? What happens? What do I want to achieve in it?
But I don’t do this for every chapter before I ever start writing – it’s too complicated. It’s why I don’t play chess very well. Like in chess, there is one variable I can control (my moves) and one variable which I can’t control (my opponent’s move) – and in order to plan mine, I have to figure out what my opponent will do. I can only do that for a few moves – or a few chapters in advance. Writing, or more accurately, my characters aren’t my enemy of course, but they still have a way of adding an extra variable into the writing process. They sometimes just do things or shoot me new ideas, or reject others.
So in conclusion: Yes I plan, but my overall outlines are very rough and liable to change. Then while I write, I will usually plan the next few chapters in more detail.
If I stick to the process outlined above, I am usually pretty fast. I generally set myself a minimum writing goal of 1000 words per day, but especially when things are going well and my plan doesn’t need a lot of alterations as I go, I tend to write 2-3k a day.
I usually try to write in shifts: I do a morning shift and get in between 500 and 1000 words, then I take care of emails and social media and sometime in the evening I do another shift. Sometimes more than one, it depends. I don’t write well around noon/afternoon, so that’s when you find me clicking around online while listening to an audiobook or watching the umpteenth rendition of one of my favorite tv shows.
While I write, I try not to edit as I go – although that, too, isn’t a fixed rule. Sometimes my head is so full of other stuff, of everyday worries or just general junk, that it helps me to edit what I wrote the last day, just to get my head back into the story. At other times, I am so “in” it, I just soldier on. In all my manuscripts there are entire chapters that I read for the first time when I look over the first draft – it’s usually very surprising, because those are the ones I hardly remember writing.
I generally edit in stages. First I do a read-through – a few weeks after I finish the first draft. In this read-through, I try to get perspective over the entire story, the plot arc and the different strands of narrative. I will also do minor edits, fix typos, fill in missing words etc. in this round.
Then, I’ll let it percolate again. I try to take my time with this, really try to figure out what is working and what isn’t. Cutting any larger amounts of text or realizing it needs any larger amount of new writing, is painful and my natural response is to shrink away from it. So, it takes a while to get a clear idea. The bigger the changes, basically, the longer this takes. And then eventually, I’ll go back in. That sounds dumb, but that’s pretty much all there is.
Finally, I will turn it into a .mobi file and read it again on my kindle. In some kind of alchemistic process, this changes the way I read, and I get way more nitpicky about sentences. I suddenly see comma mistakes, words that use twice in one paragraph, and weird phrases that make no sense etc. That’s the final round before submitting manuscripts. If I self-publish, obviously, there are more.
And that’s it. That’s my writing process. Obviously, by the time I edit one manuscript, I am usually already writing the next etc. but generally, rinse and repeat.