So a writer friend of mine invited me to play along in this blog relay to discuss writing processes. It's been going on since October, and I'm delighted to get in on this one. The idea is to answer a few questions about your writing, and then pass the torch to 3 fellow writers. You can check out Amy's blog here, where she delves into her writing process and gives some great advice for writers. I met Amy years ago at the Wildacres Writers Retreat, which is a magical place where some of the coolest, wildest, kindest, most talented writer folk gather to get down to business.
Speaking of, here are my responses to the four questions I was given. It made me think a little more about my writing process today, and also gave me some insight into where I'm headed--and how I might get there. Thanks, Amy, for the little kick in the pants.
1. What are you currently working on?
Several things--I have some commitment issues when it comes to creative projects. I'm trying to finish a couple of novels. One is literary, one is a chick-lit romance. They were both shoved in the back drawer of my brain for a while, mainly because I was unhappy with the endings and didn't quite know how to fix them. My solution was to push them aside for a while and do other things until enough time had passed that I could look at them with fresh eyes. I was hoping some time and distance would make the solution obvious to me. It hasn't. Now my solution is to power through, Hemingway-style, and just make myself sit down and type.
I also make artist books and small editioned letterpress-printed books. I've been tossing around the idea to reproduce one of my favorite handmade books through a digital process to create a more affordable version that could still have some letterpress elements. I was invited to do a presentation at the upcoming Chattanooga Zine Fest, which made me consider doing a few books that are made in the style of zines--so I'm working on layouts now and hoping to take a box of these to the ChattZineFest on May 10.
2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I don't know that it differs from other works in one specific way. I think what makes my work unique is the combination of elements and how they work together--sort of like a gumbo that has unexpected ingredients. I love characters that are quirky and so memorable you wish they really existed; I like a rich setting that shapes people; I love a good combination of humor and pathos; I like dialogue that makes me laugh out loud, and I'm fascinated by the things that pull people together and tear them apart. I'm constantly making note of the techniques I find striking in other works, but I can't say I make an effort to employ them myself. I usually try not to think too much about those parameters, but try to tell my story the way I see it, and hope that the elements I'm drawn to emerge through my own filters.
3) Why do you write what you do?
Because I find it more interesting and more fun than everything else. I have a soft spot for stories about love--its complexities, its richness, its wackiness and mystery. Sometimes I like writing about it in a serious way, and sometimes I like writing in a way that pokes fun at it, too. I delved into the romance genre because it's such a wholly different animal (and it sometimes is just the thing to shake me out of writer's block with something else). When I was a teenager, I remember being fed up with romance novels within a few chapters because so many had the same old tired predictable pattern--paired with wimpy protagonists that just left my eyes tired from all the rolling. Now I take it as a challenge to stay within the parameters of the genre (in some ways) but then write against the all-too-familiar weak-willed damsel in distress. Yes, these stories are meant to be an escape, but strong minded ladies can have cheeky romantic interludes, too!
4) How does your writing process work?
I tend to gather bits of things: images, moments in time, snippets of dialogue, a glimpse of a character. I keep notes about elements of interest (read: sticky notes everywhere), and once a few of them start to link together, I think of connections that I can draw, and think of what the heart of that story might be. Then comes the fun part: the assembly. I start with characters and go from there, concentrating on their relationships and how they relate with their friends and foes. I try to delve into what makes them special and intriguing, and then let the story run away with me. Writing is hard work, and there are certainly times where it's grueling, but I want to have fun writing about my characters. Sometimes that's giving them romantic encounters, sometimes that's tormenting them with things they can't have and events they don't want to suffer through. But it's fun for me to concoct those situations, and fun to sometimes relinquish control and see where the characters take me if I let them steer their own ships for a while.
I tend to write several drafts. Part of me wants to start editing before I even get halfway through a story, but I try my best to finish a complete draft before I let myself start editing--otherwise it's down the rabbit hole of perfecting sentences and I lose the momentum of where the story's headed. If I get stuck with one book project, I sometimes jump to another one. It gives me fresh eyes and takes the pressure off. Often my projects inform each other, and that's pretty exciting, too. Working on one will give me a breakthrough in another one.
If you'd like to share your writing process, jump on in! Send me an email and I'll add you to the relay. The next posting will be May 5. Happy writing!