Archive for the ‘writing process’ Tag

Head Space   5 comments

Before I get started, I suggest you go over and check out what PJ Fiala has posted on her website. This is also a good way to follow the hop until I get home and can post the actual link.

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When I first started writing, it was in a spiral-bound steno notebook, then computers came in and I started writing at a rolltop desk that for many years lived in the livingroom, but then we moved it to the family room when the kids became less distracting. I gave up my writing desk a couple of years ago. The rolltop desk became a multi-use space for (mostly) sewing. My husband studies technical manuals on it and our son occasionally does homework there. The desktop computer now lives in our son’s room and I write on the laptop these days, which gives me a great deal of flexible function.

I can join the family in the living room to write while watching television. Yes, I can do both, sometimes better than when I try to write as a singular focus. I can go out to the deck and write in the sun or to the kitchen table where I can jot things down between cooking procedures. I can take it to Barnes & Noble which has a great reading pit around a gas fireplace or to the bleachers at the pool where my son swims for the highschool team. I can write in the bedroom where it’s quiet and the dog can curl up by my feet.

Sometimes I go back to the desk because it’s the right mood. At some point, I print out my latest WIP (work in progress, for non–writers), put it in a binder and sit down to edit/proof-read. That’s when the desk feels right. The photo on the left is what it looks like when it’s cleaned up. The typewriter belonged to my mother and I used it all through college. It still works when I can find ribbons for it. Right now it is sitting on the floor beside the desk because my husband is studying continuing education for his electrical license. The desk itself is in a construction zone because that’s what we do with our winters in our house, we find new and unique ways to rearrange walls rather than furniture.

My most common writing space nowadays is the bedroom where I can up put my feet, play music, and keep a huge mug of tea or coffee or jug of water on the night stand. Sometimes when I’m writing Transformation Project, I like to listen to talk radio because it’s a great source of ideas for how the United States might end. My dad’s ancient Telefunken sits on top of my husband’s highboy for that purpose. It’s where I listen to Patriot’s Lament on KFAR on Saturday mornings. That’s what is lovingly known as “Anarchy Radio” here in Fairbanks.

I usually put the laptop on a pillow on my lap and I lean back against the headboard. The yellow lab puts her back against my feet and I swear she provides me inspiration for writing … or at least warm feet. The mismatched night stands hold matching ceramic lamps that look like old oil lanterns. Mine has books stacked under it and his has the humidifier and a trash can. There’s a me-made quilt in shades of blue, peach and green (or blue, green and red — I’ve made two) on the bed and white lace curtains on the window, but the bed is a really masculine rubber-tree headboard and footboard and there are a set of old-fashioned wooden snow shoes on the wall above it. There’s also two red barn lanterns hanging on black iron hooks to either side because you never know when the power is going to go out or you might just want a more relaxed lighting scheme.

The room (walls and ceiling) are painted tarn blue (Google that term “tarn” if you’re unfamiliar … everyone should know that word; it’s one of my favorite English language words). There are red carnation silk flowers in a dented brass vase on one of the wooden dressers. A fanciful wind chime hangs over the foot of the bed winter and summer, so that it can catch the breeze on a summer’s evening and it’s glittery finish can catch the light in the winter. The closet has striped blue and floral curtains instead of a door (because doors make banging noises and we hate banging noises). These days the floor is bare wood painted white because our elderly dog ruined the carpet with old-lady leakage and we can’t agree on what to replace it with. I like cork; he likes carpet. Besides the lamp and whatever not-mine novel I’m reading currently, my nightstand holds a chipped ceramic cup with some pens in it alongside a spiral bound notebook (yes, the steno notebook is still around) for taking notes.

(Call this an ADD moment: No, I don’t own a Kindle or Nook, though I do read ebooks on my laptop. I much prefer print books and own a huge collection of mostly paperbacks that will eventually be reshelved in that room we’re remodeling.)

When I’m rewriting the Daermad Cycle books, there’s a digital recorder on the nightstand so that I can read portions aloud to get the lilt right. My continuity notebook now lives with that book stack under the night table, which is where the laptop goes when I’m done using it. Usually, the curtains are pulled back so I can stare out the window when I need to. It’s a second story room overlooking birch trees so it’s like being in a tree house.

As a writer, most of my process occurs in my head, so I have never felt an overwhelming need of a special writing place. The laptop is comfortable and portable. It reminds me of the freedom writing had before I was bound to a desk by the computer. That works for me and a writer should use whatever process works for her.

PJ Fiala has written some great romance novels centered on the motorbike culture. Check them out.

Posted September 29, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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What Makes a Writer?   Leave a comment

71rYAYxfZsL._SL1500_There are many people who believe writers are born — that its a God-given talent and that being a talentless hack is a permanent condition.

This is partially true. Brain studies show that writers tend to use portions of their brains in concert with other portions of their brains more than non-writers appear to. When writer, both our left and right brains are engaged. Scientists have not yet ascertained if that is a cosmic accident or if writers just exercise their brains in this way more than do non-writers.

There is a place, however, where nature leaves off and nurture takes the lead. Yes, there are people who are born with natural talent, but you don’t have to be a prodigy to be a writer.

Writing is a labor of love. Novelists spend months, sometimes years, developing our works in progress. We have a passion for our stories that drive us to create. That doesn’t mean you have to kill yourself to succeed as a writer, but when writers aren’t writing, we’re thinking about writing. We’re describing our surroundings in teh voices of our characters, making critical observations and turning cliches upside down, eavesdropping on conversations to hear our real people talk to one another and … you should see where this is headed.

We’re not just curious about life and dabbling with writing. We’re passionate about it and we’re committed. We have an inquisitive mind that asks questions and keeps digging until we get answers. We pick the world up and turn it over and over until we understand it … or can at least describe it fully.

Writing requires dedication. Good, better, best, never let it rest. Nobody sits down at a keyboard and writes highly entertaining material the first time. Early writing is slow and labored and filled with doubt. And in the early days, you may not want to refer to yourself as a writer. Learning a craft like writing takes time. Improvement comes from massive amounts of reading and massive amounts of writing garbage followed by massive amounts of reading and massive amounts of producing mediocre writing, followed by more reading and finally starting to produce something you might want to let someone else read.

Notice how I highlighting reading as a writer’s tool. Every time you read something new you’ll begin reading it with the eye of a writer. You’ll come across something surprising or exciting, or scary and suspenseful, and you’ll wonder how the writer pulled it off. You’ll find yourself learning through mimicking.

Each writer tackles the steps toward being an author in an order unique to our own learning style and it’s not a straight path. Obstacles tend to multiply as you get better at your craft. Tenacity is necessary.

So is bravery. When I was writing The Willow Branch, I submitted my draft on Authonomy, more than a little concerned that nobody would like it. People did. Then I gained the interest of a notorious troll ont he site and he/she (depended on the iteration of this troll) ripped into my book. Ouch! I mean, PAINFUL! But you know what? That mean-spirited review actually contained some useful guidance. It took me in a direction that I hadn’t thought of before and made a better book. If I wasn’t a tenacious and brave person, I would have given up. Instead, I took his advice to heart.

We don’t tend to think of writing as a performance art. It’s not like my daughter — a dancer who is now traveling the Lower 48 as a bluegrass musician — whose art gets an immediate response from an audience that is right there in front of her. But in a way, writing is putting yourself out there, creating something to offer to the world and inviting commentary. SCARY! When you ask for honest questions, you often get them and that can be painful because everybody fancies themselves a literary critic, even neanderthals who have never held a pen in their lives.

That is part of the process. If you’re easily offended or defensive of your work or given to self-pity, this is where you might be tempted to stop creating. That’s your choice, of course, but if you can develop a thick skin, you can take that criticism, examine it honestly, find the value in it and make your book that much better. That doesn’t mean you have to make all the changes your critics suggest. Sometimes critics are cranks, but even cranks can have one or two good ideas. Readers who are not writers can often tell  you when something is wrong, but beware that they may not know how to fix it. My husband wanted Padraig, a healer, to engage in more sword play as an anecdote to what he (correctly) perceived to be a less-than-exciting narrative. But Padraig just suddenly attacking people with a sword, or alternatively being set upon by bandits for no good reason, would have destroyed the story. My solution was to mine the backstory of Celdrya and let non-healers engage in sword play. Brad-dear never saw that one coming.

Epic Fantasy … Epic Writing   1 comment

Daermad Cycle is a complicated project with multiple threads in two timelines, at least two cultures, and many characters.

I just spent the last week trying to organize the various bits of the story that have been written so that they will flow the way I want them to and now I am looking at the gaps.

How did Ryanna and her travel companion get from Cenconyn to Clarcom? And how long did it take them?

Epic fantasy means you must exercise the art of epic writing. As god of my particular universe, I must step back into the world I have created and start really answering the questions of how to flesh out the bare bones of the story and have all the threads come to together at the end while simultaneously setting up the third book in the series.

Good heavens! I have a lot to do. Did I say Murklin Wood would come out in October?

Uh …. I like a challenge. Let’s see if I can do it!

Life As We Knew It   Leave a comment

Front CoverThe dystopian thriller I have been calling A Well in Emmaus has a new name and will definitely be getting new cover art.

I finished the draft for Life As We Knew It yesterday. I’ll put it aside for a few days to work on Murklin Wood and then I’ll start the revision process with promos to follow. I hope to have it ready for publication by April.

What’s Your Writing Process?   Leave a comment

Getting prepared to publish has all sorts of new and interesting activities — like letting Smashwords “interview” me. One of the questions was, what is your writing process?

This coincided with a debate on Facebook about the same subject. Half the group believes you should just bang out the whole story like NaNoWriMo suggests and the other half was resisting assimilation.

My writing process is pretty unprocessed, I think, but writing it down for Smashwords helped me to consider what it is.

I start with characters.

Or, really, they start with me. I’m doing something else — reading a book, hiking, quilting, filing at work — and a character starts to form. He or she has things to say and sometimes those things are worth considering and sometimes they are just a fleeting moment in time. If the character hangs around for a while, I start to write about him or her. If other characters appear for the character to interact with, then I start taking the story seriously. Up to that point, it is just something to distract me from whatever I’m doing that isn’t writing.

Characters interacting with one another require a context, so I begin to build a world — a room, a town, a car — and then I have to decide where this story wants to go. It’s at this point that I start to draft an outline and maybe sketch a floor plan or a map. I might google photos to find some of the scenes in the story. I might find some music that I feel provides the appropriate atmosphere. If the story is set in a specific location or involves certain activities, I will research it on the web or at the library.

I bounce from project to project because I find this stimulates the creative juices. If I concentrate on any project for too long, I begin to lose interest. I usually write a section at a time — an event. And, then I go do something else. Maybe I work on another story, maybe I sew a quilt or shovel snow or go hiking. Maybe I just go wash dishes. When I come back, it’s a day or a month (once it was several years) gone by and I have to read what I’ve previously written. Maybe I do a little editing then, but no major rewriting. Then I write the next section and the cycle repeats.

Which is why I don’t think I could do NaNoWriMo. I have never actually done that worthy exercise, though a friend and I challenged each other in a personal version of three months. The “past” story line of The Willow Branch was a byproduct of that. I didn’t like all the continuity errors and I nearly scrapped the project in frustration. It’s not that I can’t write a novel in three months (though I think it’s highly doubtful that I could do it in one). It’s that I don’t think it will be any good if I try. However, I will attempt to write the sequel of The Willow Branch (The Shadow Forest) in six months, so I can spend the next six months editing it and preparing for publication. We’ll see how that rolls.

Posted September 27, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Writing

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What is Your Writing Process?   Leave a comment

Someone asked me that on Authonomy and I found it hard to answer.

Why would that be hard to answer?

Because my writing process isn’t very processed, I guess.

I carry a notebook with me to jot down ideas and I’m always typing something on my lap top, but much of my writing happens in my head while I’m going about my everyday life. During quiet times at work, my brain is clicking over character details or scene events. Padraig of The Willow Branch came to me when I was doing data entry. He just started whispering in my head and I needed to write him down. Most of my stories are character-driven. If a character shows up and tells me his/her story, I write it down. If he stops talking for long enough, he dies in the story.

I build the world around the character, so sometimes in the early phases of constructing a story, there’s only dialogue because that’s how I come to know the character.

But occasionally ….

There’s a description of an Alaskan landscape in the Daermad Cycle that came from a profound experience of sitting in a burned forest in Alaska, staring out at acres of scorched trees. What I wrote was too good to not share with the world, but it had no characters in it when I wrote it and it took a long time to get any of my characters to go there. It will show up in the second book and I hope it is worth the struggle I faced in trying to connect my characters to a scene they didn’t seem interested in.

So what is my writing process?

I write!

What’s yours?

Posted August 8, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Writing

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