Archive for the ‘#writingprocess’ Tag

Time’s The Thing   9 comments

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?


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Introducing My Process

Writers are as individual as snowflakes. We each follow our own writing process, often born from natural routines that just “feel” right to us. No two people write the same way.

I am definitely a discovery writer — what some people call a pantser. I don’t enjoy organizing a story and knowing where the plot is going before I get there. It’s not my process.

When I wrote The Willow Branch, it was part of a longer manuscript that I broke down into smaller novels. It took me 15 years of writing to get to a point where I knew how the story would end and felt I could publish the novel.

Clearly, my writing processes has changed since I published that first novel. I have two series in process and am about to launch a third.

Yet, I remain a discovery writer.

What’s changed?

In some ways, nothing has changed. I’m still a discovery writer whose characters tell me their stories and I write them down. Now that I’m writing for an audience instead of for my own entertainment, I set deadlines for myself. If I’m going to publish at least one novel a year, plus probably a short for an anthology, I can’t waste a lot of time being nonproductive.

I’ve never had any trouble with ideas. Inspiration is all around me – from routine situations I see in a new way, a childhood memory I’m coming to grips with, or a conversation I overhear on an elevator. My imagination takes flight whenever I’m not actively engaged in conversation with someone else. If I contemplate something for a while, a character will often start telling me the story of how they interact with that idea or event. I feel compelled to write it down. Their stories are the essence of my novels.

The problem with character-driven discovery writing is I used to never know what was going to happen in the plot of a story until I wrote it.

Obviously, that was going to work for publishing a series

Writing a series takes some organization and long-form planning, kind of like piecing together a puzzle. I actually know how Transformation Project will end. I have the broad outline of the series in hand. Each book just fills in between the major plot points. I never did that before I published a book and then thought “Wait, there’s an audience that’s going to want the next books and remember how you felt when a novelist seemed to get distracted and not come out with the next installment for a half-decade. Don’t be that writer.”

Writing Faster

My plans are broad and each book just fills in between the major plot points which are already known. I’m ready to start writing a single novel in one of my series. I used to not care about word count, but now I have to keep it in view. I can still allow myself to wander off topic a bit — to allow a bit of free writing — but I know I need to provide myself with direction and not allow too much distraction. Writing is a regular part of my day. I still take breaks when I need to, but I know I can’t play around too long or I’ll find myself stressed out in a few months when I’m staring at a deadline that’s about to munch me.

Then Come Revision

I didn’t used to be really concerned with revising. Back when I was writing for my own entertainment, revision wasn’t a major part of my writing process because I could just keep writing and add whatever I wanted to write with no concern whatsoever about what anyone else might think of the story. Now, I need to pay attention to what someone else might think of what I’m writing.

The average novel has between 60,000 and 100,000 words. Some books are too short and others are too long. I want to hit the sweet spot where my readers are well-satisfied, but not bored, where they get all the information they need without feeling overwhelmed. Sometime when I finish a rough draft and I take a good long look at the manuscript, I feel there’s something missing that needs to be added in. Other times, I have to remove details because they’re just too much, extraneous or repetitive. Sometimes I move scenes or dialogue around to improve the pacing of the story.


I really treat revising and editing as one whole process. I know some people take it as two separate processes, but I check for grammar, spelling, punctuation while I’m also revising. As the revision process goes along, I revise less and edit more. I reach for finer and finer grades of editing. One of my last steps is to listen to the manuscript read aloud. I take advice from beta readers and an editor.

Cover Design

This is something that has definitely changed since I published my first novel. My daughter is an artist and she designed the cover for The Willow Branch. It was a lovely cover, but an electrical storm fried my zip drive during a back up and wiped out my cover images, and she wasn’t available to recreate it. She recommended I work with a friend of hers, who encouraged me to design my own cover. He taught me how to use photo-editing software and introduced me to sources. And I played and made a lot of bad covers before I started to make good ones. I’m not really an artist, but my daughter points out that I did okay in college art classes and the art of making covers is really the same technique as making collages.

Then Comes Publishing

I don’t consider publishing to be a part of my writing process. There’s some who would say designing a cover falls under publishing, but I generally start working on the cover early in the writing process, so I include it there.

I’m a soup-to-nuts independent writer, so I have my fingers in every aspect of the writing and publishing process. In my journalism days, we still did typography by hand, so I do the formatting and the layout,

The Main Change

Time. I now know there’s a clock on my production. I try to produce a reasonable word count every day, although I don’t worry if I take a couple of days off occasionally. My goal is to write between a 60-80,000 manuscript in three months, so I can work on other projects during the down times and still have about three months for editing, betas, more editing and formatting.

I find as I work on books that I’m really enjoying the process of completing a book on a deadline. It’s a challenge that I wouldn’t have seen me taking to back when I published The Willow Branch five years ago, but now it’s fun and there’s a sense of accomplishment from knowing I can actually do that, while still being true to my characters and the stories they tell me.

Posted December 23, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Toiling in My “Fields”   10 comments

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

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Writing is something I can’t not do, so a lot of my process feels like breathing and breathing is usually pretty easy for most of us. Characters appear in my head , often while I’m doing something that has nothing to do with writing. There’s something about doing a big filing project, folding laundry, quilting and picking blueberries that makes my muse active. I don’t really think about it. Characters start talking in my head and I feel compelled to write down the stories they tell me. That doesn’t necessarily lead to a novel, but it often does.

I enjoy the first draft, that gravelly diamond-in-the-rough that just appears from beneath my fingers. And, I actually really enjoy the act of rewriting, of taking a rough story and improving it, pruning what isn’t necessary and adding what would enhance the tale.

And then we get to the critique and editing portion of the process. Submitting for critique is scary because you don’t know what people are going to think of your story and it’s just possibly that you’ll discover you’re crazy. I haven’t had that experience in submitting to sane people. I did have a Authonomy review by a notoriously cruel reviewer, but his (or her, that was always uncertain) review was so vitriolic that I didn’t mourn for long. I read what he had to say and considered the points, but I used my own judgment. He made The Willow Branch a better novel, but it surely wouldn’t have been published if I’d accepted his analysis whole-cloth.

That part is scary, but scary isn’t hard. Alaska’s a dangerous place and you enjoy it a whole lot more if you’re brave. Being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. I’ve lots of practice overcoming scary. Nowadays I ask for beta readers before I’ve even finished the rewrite.

I’d say the hardest part of my writing process is marketing. I’m not a naturally outgoing person and I’d prefer not to have to interact with people to sell books, but alas, I’m not independently wealthy so I have to market my books myself. It’s all the hours it takes and trying to balance that with time for family and writing. The good news is, based on the KENP reads, if people find my books and read the first one, they tend to read the whole series. I keep trying to find a sweet spot where the books more or less sell themselves with just some promotion, but I’m not there yet.

I’m all about doing hard things and not complaining about it. I believe it’s the key to success. So check out my author page and find your next series to love. I’ve got fantasy and apocalyptic, a political satire and anthologies. See how easy that was? Hard part taken care of.

Book 5 in Transformation Project “Gathering In” will be out sometime before the end of the year.

Low Maintenance Writer   1 comment

March 5, 2018 – Writing spaces and processes.  What’s one or two things you must have in order to sit down and write productively?


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Typing on LaptopI’m a pretty flexible writer. I can and do write pretty much anywhere I am and I’m not put off by noise or activity. I don’t require my laptop … I often take a notebook along when we hike, fish or camp so I can jot things down during breaks — although I do prefer using the laptop because it’s more efficient. I don’t mind layovers on trips (I do bring my laptop for this) because I will sit and write while I wait … and then probably write while I’m on the plane … or stuck in the airport. I just don’t have a lot of requirements when I write because writing just seems to be something I must do and my background as a reporter taught me to screen out everyone around me.

But there are a couple of things I prefer when I’m seeking to get into the zone where I can push out 5,000 words in a day.

Warmth. You probably are furrowing your brow at this, but remember where I live. It’s cold outside and the only reason it’s not just as cold inside is that we have heating devices and insulation. But sometimes the heat doesn’t work. Brad likes to use weekends and holidays to work on our heating system. Does it need working on? Maybe, maybe not, but he experiments with our system so that he can do a better job on other people’s systems. Consequently, sometimes, I find it’s dropped to 60 degrees in the bedroom – my most common writing spot – and at that point, I can no longer type, which means I am no longer productive at writing.

Hot beverage – okay, even when it’s “warm” in our house, it’s not really all that warm in our house — we’re fuel misers — so a thermos of hot coffee (decaf) or tea at my elbow is appreciated. Combine this with occasional servings of homemade bread toasted and slathered with butter and I might hit 6,000 words that day. I actually did 18,000 words on a three-day weekend in January.

Genre-appropriate music. I don’t always need this and it’s better if it doesn’t have lyrics, but I do sometimes use music to get into the writing zone. Celtic-flavored music works well for Daermad Cycle. Transportation Project doesn’t have a genre. It really depends on the character. More and more when I write from 95-year-old Jacob Delaney’s POV, I want fiddle music. Why? He likes fiddle music. I discovered the other day that he plays. Who knew? I love that about my characters.

Quiet Company. I enjoy having the dog in the room. She’s a yellow Lab with the most beautiful brown eyes that just say “You can do it, human!” Sometimes I ask her what she thinks of what I’m writing and she wags her tail to let me know I’m on the right track.

But as I said, I don’t get upset if there’s noise or any other distraction. My husband can wonder in and talk to me or watch television in the living room. Sometimes I’ll take the laptop downstairs and write while I’m watching television. The above are mostly nice-to-haves, not must-haves. Sometimes they are very useful and sometimes I don’t even notice if they’re not there.

Low-maintenance, I think they call that.


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