I was tagged in a Writing Process Blog Tour by my twitter pal Rebecca Paula, who writes historical romance and NA Romance. You can check out her post about her writing process here. Thanks, Becka! (And let’s all pretend that I’m not a full week behind schedule in posting this myself, k thanks!)
What are you currently working on?
I finished my first novel, Thicker Than Water, in December 2013. Which means by January 2, 2014 I was already itching for a new project! That new project is currently in Revision Land, and I’m hoping to finish the manuscript by the end of 2014 (which would equate to writing the book in one year!). Novel number two is historically-based literary fiction, and at the moment is unnamed (I’m terrible at titles). It’s a dual narrative about a little-known Chicago architect during the Progressive Era who struggles to make a name for himself among the greats of his time; and his on-again, off-again girlfriend, who is a transplant from rural Iowa and is running from a disturbing past into a scandalous future in high society Chicago.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’m incredibly Type A, so you’d think that I would like putting my writing in a neat little box, and stamping it according to genre definitions. But I really, really dislike pigeon-holing my work in that regard. Over the past year or so, I’ve taken to calling what I write “Historical Fiction” but, given my MFA in fiction, I really hate to think I might be straying from the highly-regarded “Literary Fiction” genre. What that means is that I strive for my books to be written well, focus on developing my characters, and try to remain only somewhat concerned with plot. At the same time, these books are set in the past, with rich period details, which makes it easy to dub my work as historical. I also write strong female characters who are often struggling to figure out what they want and who they are, so my writing would also appeal to those who appreciate the “Women’s Fiction” category. I don’t think writing for several genres makes me particularly unique, but I suppose that this could make my work differ from stories that stick strictly to one genre in particular.
Why do I write what I write?
I don’t make up stories from scratch—rather, I hear glimpses of stories and mold them into richer, more complex narratives. My first book is a mix of family lore, characters of my own imagining, and a setting very much based on the small town from my childhood. My second book is a compilation of real, historical events that are set in the Chicago of old, with my original characters reacting to the events in the ways I see fit. My writing comes from two places: first, inspiration (when I’m originally planning for my story) and second, discipline (sitting down in my writing chair every morning at 6 a.m. despite whether I’m feeling inspired or not).
How does my individual writing process work?
For the most part, I work on one project at a time. This means I waited until my first book was 95% complete before starting book number two (and at the time, I thought the book was 100% complete, but a few months away from the project gave me some insight).
When writing my first draft, I write by hand. Yes, using actual paper with an actual pen. Often I’ll have an idea of the sort of thing that needs to happen in the scene (i.e., my main character should attempt to find a solution to her lack of monetary funds and fail) but I don’t like planning my plot points too carefully. I like to write in a slow, exploratory manner.
Then, when it’s time to transcribe those words from page to computer screen, I’m already at a pseudo second draft. I do a little minor editing at this point, but try to remain pretty true to what I wrote by hand. I liken my handwriting words to that old advice you always received when it came time to take a standardized test: your first instinct is often your best answer.
Then comes revision. Currently, I’m in this stage for book number two. What revision means to me is printing what I wrote for draft one and making my own comments on what’s missing and using feedback from beta readers to then sit down and do more “re-seeing” of the scene with my pen and paper. I weave in the new stuff and take out the old as needed.
Last, but not least, I read everything out loud to my husband. He’s not a big reader, so he’s actually pretty discriminatory when it comes to random things (like character names, odd metaphors, lulls in the story, etc.). Reading aloud helps me catch any repetitive words or phrases and also helps me figure out where the language could be heightened. I made edits based on those notes, and then I’m ready for my final readers. These are people who can give me large picture comments about the storyline, pacing, etc. I generally like to choose people who are readers rather than writers for feedback at this point, because I am mostly finished making sentence-level changes. This might be when I decide to cut a chapter or reorder scenes.
After that, I like to say that I’m DONE. Of course, DONE can mean a lot of things, but for my purposes it means I’m not allowed to mess around with it any more. It means it’s time to starting thinking about how I’m going to get the book out into the world, and time to brainstorm my next project.
… whew! That was a lot of information, but I hope you found it interesting and helpful! And now for the tagging of two other authors who will share their writing process posts within the next week (or so). Drumroll, please….
Melissa Marino: Melissa is a full-time writer with a focus on contemporary adult and young adult novels. She loves to tell relatable stories, with a splash of humor and is a total sucker for love. She can often be found huddled in the corner of her favorite coffee shop writing, or at Story Studio, Chicago’s premier writing studio. She lives just outside Chicago with her husband, and nine year old son. When she’s not writing she’s reading, baking or on adventures with her boys. You can follow her on Twitter here.
Adam Morgan: Adam Morgan is an author, writing professor, award-winning screenwriter, and book critic in Charlotte. He has a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction and Screenwriting, and has taught undergraduate and graduate students at Roosevelt University and Montreat College as a teaching assistant and faculty member. He is currently working on his first novel, THE HIDDEN CITY. His diverse portfolio includes a book about Chicago’s natural and human history, a television script in development at Fox, and contributions to all three major publishing magazines. He is also a voting member of the National Book Critics Circle. Poets & Writers Magazine named him one of three distinguished graduates of Roosevelt University’s MFA program. When he’s not writing, Adam is an outdoors enthusiast, and has hiked the Appalachians, Rockies, Sierra Nevada, Cascades, the Caribbean, and twelve national parks. Follow him on twitter @earthmorgan, and click here to see his writing portfolio.