Tuesday, July 15, 2014

#MyWritingProcess Blog Hop

Since I am, at heart, a horrible narcissist, I am so excited to have such a great platform to share #MyWritingProcess, so thank you, Nik!!! I I tell ya, if it wasn't for Nik Vukoja poking me with a stick every now and again I would be reduced to reclusive hermit status in no time--and I mean to the point where vines would grow over my home and children would run past it in horror. But because she is awesome, and a huge advocate for writers and nurturing the writing community she stays on top of me and I end up with fantastic experiences and new writer buddies.

In that vein, go, right now, and check out her #MyWritingProcess post here. After you do that, follow her on Twitter where she's always doing marvelous things @Nik_Vukoja. I'll wait.

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Isn't she lovely? Nik was the mastermind behind #NestPitch which was not only a lot of fun, but HIGHLY inspiring, and I was honored to have the opportunity to see so much wonderful work from the participants. In short, if we lived in the same country, I would definitely drive to Nik's house to bring her cake every day.

With that, welcome to #MyWritingProcess! We writers share these things, but informally during workshops and at conferences (and, for a handful of established writers, in printed interviews), but not so much through our open-forum blogs. With the hashtag #MyWritingProcess, you can learn how writers all over the world answer the same four questions. How long it takes one to write a novel, why romance is a fitting genre for another, how one’s playlist grows as the draft grows, why one’s poems are often sparked by distress over news headlines or oddball facts learned on Facebook…

But since some of you might not have the foggiest clue who I am, I'll give a little intro.

About Me

Seen here, flat out unconscious in the middle of the day.

Already know me? Too bad, you're about to know more! To start, my niche is contemporary fiction that tends to twist and turn toward the more taboo side of things, but I'm a nice girl, I promise. I finished my first novel in 2012, and signed with Folio Lit in 2013. Right now I am writing my third, and I have another on hiatus, so I keep pretty busy, but I'll give you a bit more about me in general before we dig into that. I'll stick to the non-writing aspects of my day-to-day, since we'll be covering that later. I mentioned cake above because aside from writing and editing and generally enjoying the company of people I make up, I'm also a cake decorator.

I make cakes for parties...

And weddings...

Even if people just want dessert--I will do that.

Needless to say, I spend most of my days sticky and covered with frosting, which has made me popular among dogs and mosquitoes. 

I also have a family.

Halloween during Hurricane Sandy. We had no power for almost two weeks, so we dressed up in our costumes and ran around on the lawn.

As you can see, creating things is important to me, and even more so when I can create something from nothing. The downside of this is that I am a perfectionist, so if I can't get something just right I have been known to retreat to a quiet corner and sob pitifully. This is especially true when I am writing, so let's talk a bit about that.

What am I working on?

I'm so glad you asked! Writing my first two books was a solitary experience, insofar as I worked on them exclusively and didn't try to multitask with any other projects. This time I had the unique experience of working on one book that ended up being hijacked by another idea about 30K in. 

I started the year working on a contemporary novel about a single mother who learns that her teenage son has a rare degenerative disease that will render him blind within the year. As a mother myself, I could imagine nothing worse than seeing my child go through such a crippling experience, but I also wanted to show the actuality of the disease through her son. I split the POV between them, and it was very interesting to write a seeing character who slowly has to adjust to blindness--writing him with an increasing focus on touch and sound as his vision worsened was a welcome challenge.

But then...

I stalled. And I hate to stall. As has been the case before, I had directions from point A to point C, but I knew I had to stop at point B along the way, and I just couldn't find it. Around the same time I got twinges of another idea that was looking promising, so, for the first time ever, I put one thing aside and started something new. Right now I'm about 35K deep in the new project--it's also contemporary, about a woman who dies as the lone resident of a tiny Wyoming town. When her granddaughter arrives to settle her estate, she finds that her grandmother had been a hoarder, but rather than run-of-the-mill items she was hoarding the possessions of former residents of the town as they slowly died off, whittling the population down to one. It's morphing as I go, which always happens, but I'm happy with my progress so far.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The short answer here is that I write weird. I have two watchwords when I'm drafting a novel: isolation and desperation. My favorite thing to do is to take my characters and strand them--physically, emotionally, whatever, my characters are always cut off in some way, because I like to find their inner MacGyver. My basic tendency is to put relatively normal people into situations that stretch them to the limit of what they can tolerate and then I go ahead and punch them in the face. Seriously, I feel bad for anyone who winds up in one of my books, because I am merciless with my abuse. The benefit of this is that I am constantly surprised. Inevitably, whenever the anvils are falling, I find layers that I could never have fabricated on my own. I like raw, I like quirky, and I like instability. People are more interesting when they're dancing.

Why do I write what I do?

I am my first audience, so if I'm not writing something I'd want to read then I'm fighting a losing battle.  I see every project as a big game of What Would You Do? I create characters that I like as people because that makes it easier for me to allow them to act horribly. And act horribly they do. My job is to lead the reader to understand why they're acting horribly without hating them for it and that's the tough part. But it's also a challenge I love.

How does my writing process work?

Slowly. I have a horrible, horrible habit of editing as I go, so I often get trapped in a scene because I'm desperate to make it perfect before I move on. And sometimes that's good, because deeper focus can open more doors, but more often than not I have to physically slap my own hand to stop myself from editing a newborn scene fifty times. I also write long. My first book was 264K written in nine months, and it took me three years to edit it down to its final count of 104K. I've improved since then, and now my writing window is about four or five months for a 100K novel. Editing could be just as long or longer. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way with my first novel, which was a blessing, so I am now hyperaware of when I need to just suck it up and kill a darling or ten. I write mostly at night, usually from 9 p.m. to about one in the morning, and on Sundays I try to do a four to six hour marathon. I jot down my ideas longhand in a regular notebook, which I find helps me remember things better, and when I inevitably get a great brainstorm or a genius line of dialogue at four in the morning I will email it to myself so I have something incoherent to greet me when I sit down at my computer. Like a method actor, I'd say I'm a method writer, in that I do things before I write about them whenever possible. I'm a hands-on researcher, and I consider that to be the most important part of the process. It also leads to great stories and the occasional death threat from a powder-puff football team. But that's another post.

I am now passing the baton to two fabulous writers, both of whom I met during my stint at #NestPitch. First up:

Jeri Baird--Jeri is a FABULOUS MG writer, and I know this because my daughter had the honor of beta reading her fantastic novel Barnabas and Bird, and I think she's read it twice since. It was an incredible read, and she's got a firm fan base in my house. You can find her blog here and she's also hanging around twitter @jeribaird11.

My second pick is another MG writer, the wonderful AJ Vanderhorst.  The first time I read his work it blew my mind in three hundred words--bizarre, unexpected, and pretty much what I usually shoot for in my own writing, so yeah, I was impressed. AJ blogs here and he can be found on twitter @ajvan.

And that's it for me! Thanks for reading, I'm going to commence blog hopping now!


  1. So interesting how different people's processes are! Great watchwords and your current WIP sounds awesome. I would definitely read that story. Good luck with it!

  2. Thanks, Jen! It's emerging pretty quick, which is a good sign for me :)

  3. Good to hear from another late-night writer who stalls out trying to perfect the current scene. :) I had no idea the Cake part of your life was so amazing. I'd like to order a double chocolate creation with chocolate icing... Does your first book have an ETA yet?

  4. Love this! I'm seeing a lot of similarities with you're writing and mine, except I tend more toward the fantasy side of things... My first novel was a whopping 180k (your number was way more impressive!)! I still haven't gotten it down low enough and doubt I ever will...

    I love torturing my characters too. Muwahahahaha! Lmk if you're every in need of CP/beta read swap :) (I'm always on the prowl to add to my small circle)