Writer’s Process Blog Tour

typewriter_girl

When asked, I don’t normally participate in round-robin, tag team kind of things unless there’s a good reason.  Sometimes the reason is not what was asked but who asked.  Whom asked.  By whom it was asked.  Dammit.  In this case, I was asked by the lovely, talented tease by the name of Dana, aka, DCT designs, who was asked by Helena.  I was later asked by the wickedly quirky Marie, but it all goes to the same place.  Sort of.

When she asked me to share some things about what and how I write, I was ready to say no, but then I thought further.  Farther.  More.  And I thought that maybe there’s someone who might read this who really has some interest in my particular process.  Sometimes the value in that is for someone else to see what I’m doing, realize it’s the same as what they do, and maybe they’ll say, “Oh, cool.  That’s what I do.  That’s good.”  Or maybe someone else will say, “He does that?  Crap.  I do that too, but not anymore.”

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Either way, it could help.  Here are the questions I borrowed from Dana’s entry, which can be found here.

 

Question 1. What am I working on?

I’m currently working on three different things:

First, a short story about a serial killer who abducts homeless people, ties them up in his basement, and slowly watches them die while talking to them.  But one evening, he selects the wrong homeless person.

Second, many people already know that I love time-travel (TT) stories and have always wanted to write one.  However, the device is the problem.

In most TT stories, the device is stupid.  In Stephen King’s 11/22/63, the device was to shut yourself into a closet in a diner, lift your legs as if walking in place, and then suddenly you appear in a back alley a bunch of years in the past.  Just plain stupid.  In a recent romantic comedy, About Time, you went into a dark place, closed your eyes, clenched your fists, and thought about where you wanted to go in your past.  Bang – you went there.  I know, right?  Stupid.

For many years I’ve read and enjoyed TT stories, but I couldn’t write one because I hadn’t thought of a device that makes sense.  I was recently watching a science show that debated whether the universe was the work of a Creator or just a natural event.  During the course of the show, which examined theories about parallel universes as well as the creation, my “device” came to me.  I’m in the process of outlining that story, which should be novel length.

Third, I’m also working on revising and submitting Woodbury Avenue to agents.  That’s my story about a disturbed man with violent tendencies living in a quiet, suburban neighborhood.  That story is also currently simmering in the quarter finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, an annual contest for writers seeking discovery.  By rule, I can’t submit to agents while still in the running for the contest, which is run by both Amazon and Publisher’s Weekly.

 

Question 2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

That’s a tough question because one of my weaknesses as a writer is not reading enough within my preferred genre, and I haven’t figured out my preferred genre either.  All I can say is that my work is different in style. 

From what I’ve been told, and for what I strive, my writing is rather conversational.  Feedback from wonderful people suggests that my writing sounds as if I’m simply having a conversation and orally telling you the story.  I try to avoid forcing anyone to keep a thesaurus nearby while reading.  I hate when writers think that using “new” words = better writing.  Reading shouldn’t be work.  A writer’s job is to entertain, not educate.  For me, less is more.  I’m a fan of what Twain and Hemingway did for American literature.  I like how King keeps his prose simple.  I don’t like his endings, but his sentence and paragraph structure is fabulous.  So my difference is not what I write but, hopefully, how I write.

Now that I think further about this, another way I’m different is how much, or how little, time I spend on descriptions of characters.  I know that many people have extensive lists of character traits and things like height, weight, birthday, favorite food, good/bad habits, and 33 more things that won’t make it into the story.  I don’t mess with that.  As the story progresses, I’ll drop in what I need when I think I need it.  I’m not saying those lists are a bad thing to do.  Anything that works for any individual is a good thing.  Anything that doesn’t work?  Bad thing.  Doesn’t work for me.

For my characters, I’ll drop in a few touches here, but I don’t care much about someone’s specific descriptions unless they’re important.  It’s not necessary for me to write about someone’s height or eye color unless the eye color is vital to the story.  In one story, I specified about a man having extremely dark brown eyes.  The only reason was so that later, when I then described a girl as having extremely dark brown eyes, it would give the reader the clue that those two people were related.  If it’s not an important characteristic, there’s no need to mention it.

For more about that, you can read here

 

Question 3. Why do I write what I do?

When I was in high school, I fell in love with film and always wanted to write films.  When I finally paid so much attention to film that I was subsequently kicked out of college, I started writing because I realized how tiny the likelihood of ever working in the film industry was.

I like to tell stories.  I improvised many stories to entertain my kids on long drives to visit relatives living about two hours away.  I made up characters and spoke in dialects to act out stories, making them more lifelike and fun.  When they were eventually too old for the goofy stories about a race between a watermelon and a grape or how I invented birds, leaves, etc, my writing/storytelling had to grow up.

I write because I think people love to disappear into a story, forget about everything around them, and just go somewhere else for a while.  I’d like to help them get there.

 

Question 4. How does my writing process work?

I’m going to describe this process as if it is something unique while knowing perfectly well that it is not.

Step One – Getting an idea

The first story I wrote with any seriousness was a middle-grade time travel story about a boy who accidentally transports back to the Civil War.  I was visiting Gettysburg, walking through the battlefield, and I thought, “What interesting thing could happen here?”  It’s called Grandpa’s Watch, and I should post that here.   Hey, so I guess I already did write a time travel story.  Go figure.

I wrote a short story about a man finding a dead body in an abandoned house.  That story came to me when, stuck in traffic, I noticed an abandoned house and thought, “What interesting thing could happen in there?”  It’s called “Better Days” and will be published this summer in my short story collection.

I wrote a novel about a luxury housing development, built on what was once a plantation, haunted by the spirit of a vicious slave owner whose cursed spirit was trapped on what was his family homestead but was turned into the housing development.  I wrote that when sitting at my computer, looking out the window of a home built on what was once a farm, and I thought, “What interesting thing could happen here?”  It’s called The Curse.  Wanna read it?

I wrote a novel about a deranged man who stalks the nice people in the suburban neighborhood to which he had recently moved.  I began that story when, after moving into a suburban neighborhood, standing outside the home, watching a handful of nice people going about their August day, and I thinking – well – you get the idea.  That’s Woodbury Avenue.

That’s how my writing starts.  I look at the world around me, fold it, rip it, shape it a little, until it becomes a little more interesting.  Nothing special, I know.

Step Two – Getting started

I use outlines.  So as not to make you read details unless you wish to – here’s a link to my outlining process.  Feel free to read it, or just feel you know enough to know that I use outlines. 

I don’t start writing the first draft until I have the outline so that I know where my story is going, start to finish.  Some people can just start winging it from “chapter 1,” but I don’t work that way.  I need a framework of where the story will go before I get going.  Sure, I will change things along the way, but without an idea of where to aim, I can’t possibly come close to my target.  Others can, I guess, but not me.

Step Three – Making it better

After I’ve written each first-draft chapter – which is my favorite part of writing – I post chapters here on my blog to get feedback.  I am extremely fortunate to have about ten very smart, generous people who read nearly everything I write and leave fabulous comments, question, and concerns.  I read those carefully, juggle and feel them out (the comments, not the readers, yet) and then revise my chapters one at a time, but not usually until the whole story is finished.

I put each chapter online usually before I start the next one.  I also include questions at the end of each chapter in order to help the readers be aware of my concerns.  Again, I don’t claim this is original, but I stress “show, don’t tell.”  Sometimes I think I’m showing, but maybe I’m not showing enough.  By asking readers certain questions, I’ll get an idea if I “showed” enough.  Maybe they totally missed something.  If so, it’s probably my fault, and the questions help with that.

Some writers feel that posting chapters on my blog is actually “publishing” them, and then no agent or publisher will touch my story because I have already used “first rights” or something like that.  I’ve talked to agents, and they disagree.  I’ve talked to editors, and they said all I would have to do is change a few things, like names, and then I’ll be fine.  Nobody I’ve ever talked to can name an incident in which a publisher accepted a story, later learned it had been on a blog, and then changed their mind.

_________________________

That’s all I got.  Part of this writer’s blog tour is to nominate someone else to contribute the details of their own processes.  I’m not going to do that.  But what I am going to do is invite you to write that in your own blog post.  Then come back here and slap the link to your post in the comments below. 

Ready….Go!

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43 thoughts on “Writer’s Process Blog Tour

  1. Well, you don’t use description indiscriminately so “tease” was an important detail to divulge. But you and I both know if we didn’t live on opposite coasts we’d be down at the shore and you’d be buying me a beer. ;)

    Thank you for participating btw. Finding my way to you, brought me to Friday Fictioneers, and it’s been uphill ever since. I have developed fabulous online friendships. Not to mention I regularly refer to your writing tips irregardless of their content. *wink*

    I can NOT wait to start reading your time travel book (hint hint). I always imagined time travel took place at the swimming hole, diving off the end of the dock. Too much little mermaid perhaps. Running into the center of twister was also an option. And it is shameful that I had no idea Woodbury Avenue was in the Qtr finals w/Amazon. I thought I’d been stalking you appropriately.

  2. Hi Decker,
    First, congrats on having Woodbury Avenue make it to the quarters. That alone should be validation for your writing ability. I’m glad you wrote this because it’s very interesting to read how other writers create their work. As usual, you were very thorough and organized in your approach to explaining your process, which is very thorough and organized. Also interesting to hear what you have in the pipeline. I also have a time travel novel idea, but I don’t think I’ll ever get around to writing it because it’s just not my thing. The basic premise is that people from the future return because the planet is ruined and uninhabitable and try to seize power from the present day people. Because I’ll never use this idea, I’d like it if someone else would. Also wanted to thank you for sharing my book promos on FB. Very generous of you and many thanks. Ron

    • nothing at all generous about me simply sharing something you post. you’ve done equal if not more for me.

      have you read king’s 11/22/63? i mention it because there is a small part of that book that involves a little of what you mentioned about your idea. what he did is not enough to say “it’s been done,” but he had your same thought and used it a little bit.

      i’m glad that you have added proof that i was wrong in my hesitation to write this. i feared nobody would care, but sometimes it’s good to be wrong.

      i reached the quarterfinals once before, two years ago, the first time i entered, but that was as far as i got. last year, i didn’t get past the pitch, and i didn’t have a great pitch. however, sincerely, the friday fictioneers helps with whittling things down for more conciseness. it’s the best reason to continue FFing. revising/editing skills.

      thanks again and happy friday

  3. The other thing with you posting your stories on here is that when you know you’re going to be sending the whole work to an agent, you take all chapters off the site anyway, so that it’s no longer up for viewing.

    And you know I’ll read almost anything, and I do enjoy re-reading stuff too.

  4. “I like to tell stories” , that is the sentence in this amazing post that I love the most because it boils every writer down to one common denominator.

    and I love to read and listen to your stories, this was an amazing synopsis of your drive, vision and process. I can’t wait to hold your books in my hands and read them. Wishing you lots of luck with the next few steps until that happens.

    • see, what i appreciate about your comment is that you help me know that there are people who really, carefully read stuff like this. you’re the reason why i changed my mind when i first thought, “nobody will read this, so why should i write it?” thanks for proving me wrong.

  5. Rich, very helpful response to the Process Tour Questions and congratulations on the quarterfinals (may it go to and win the championship round). I’m so happy for your successes and wish you many, many more. Then one day I can tell people how I had coffee with you. :-) Maybe in May I should get an autograph while I still can.

    Looking at something and thinking, “What interesting thing could happen there?” is a bit like what I do as a photographer. I look at things and try to convey how they’re interesting. I don’t know that I’ll ever write a novel (I’m beginning to think that short stories or essays or poetry might work, though) but I do love writing.

    janet

    • silly girl. you’re one of the few people i’ve ever actually met in person from WP, and there’s no reason that won’t continue. but i do like your optimism.

      with what little photography i have done, i have always thought the idea was to see something that we wouldn’t normally see. like a beautiful flower in the middle of a yard of weeds. i always think to look for the context of something, not just the something itself. but there’s so much to photography that i’m sure is well beyond me.

      oh well. you can’t know everything. that’s why there are so many of us. but very few of you. only one, pretty sure. see you in may.

  6. Thanks for sharing your process, and one that can help other writers. Thankful, i don’t have to worry about writing outside the blog. ;)

    Congrats to you regarding the Amazon contest. Well done … and good luck on the next phase!

    I think someone has finally heard your scorn about KB’s outfits.

  7. Rich, it is interesting to read about your writing process. I read most of the posts on your blog about writing, character etc and most of the chapters of Connecting Flight, though not always commenting as so much had already been said.

    I feel that a lot of authors forget that they are there to tell a story, to draw their reader into the world they are creating and hold them there. I hope to get there one day, in the meantime I’ll redraft my stories and try and become a better writer.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rich and here’s hoping Woodbury Avenue gets through the quarter finals.

    By the way, what happened with Connecting Flight?

    Dee

    • thanks for your good wishes and sharing your thoughts. as for your writing and getting better, please try to let me know when you have something you’d like someone to read and comment on. i enjoy reading and giving feedback, but i don’t usually know when someone has posted anything. but when someone tells me, “hey, come read this,” i always do.

      as for “connecting flight,” a small press is going to publish that this coming summer. waiting for details to get straightened out. thanks for asking.

  8. Pingback: Weekend ~ 4/18/14 ~Twitter cocktails, TMI and Travel Plans | DCTdesigns Creative Canvas

  9. Time travel stories annoy me. Especially when the character bumps into himself when traveling to the past. I mean, I like the concept, I’m just not sure I’ve ever read anything or seen a movie that hooked me. It’s like, it’s like a New Year’s Eve party. Have you ever really really thoroughly enjoyed yourself at one? The concept is awesome, but do they work? Now I am remembering my college years talking about the downfalls of communism – the beauty of it on paper, the impossibility of it in reality.

    But I digress, as usual.

    Hey, if i wrote a time travel story, it would be about a guy (because I like guys) who figures it out and creates an app for it, but it glitches and people poof and disappear everywhere… The eventual downfall of Apple would ensue. Of course if such an app was ever created it would launch on iPad only. Not iPhone. iPad because of its size. Oh yeah, not the iPad Mini either. But yeah… this is how Apple Inc is destroyed. A glitch in a time travel app. I need to to go write.

    I enjoyed reading this. Yay!

    • p.s. please-please tell me your TT stories won’t have characters meeting themselves!
      p.p.s. The Family Guy did an interesting concept on it. But I’m such a Stewie mark he could do or say anything and I would find him brilliant.
      p.p.p.s. Do the other Griffin family members know he talks or is that just a baby-dog thing because dogs understand stuff humans don’t?

      • There is a story aimed at middle schoolers that I have not shared yet. Wrote it about to 20 years ago but have not given it another look since then. There is also an early reader story that was on my blog about 2 years ago, maybe 3, but probably before you found me.

      • You were plenty privy, just off in another direction, as was I. Later tonight I will gladly post the early reader story again for you to read. The middle grade time travel story has never been online And would need at least one revision.

      • I don’t watch Family Guy so I have no idea. I have only seen one full episode, and it literally almost caused my death. Probably not, but there was a span of about 20 seconds when I believed I might die.

        With the outline I have thus far, it would not be possible for my character to meet himself when traveling in the past. Only one character will be going back.

        My problem right now is that just as I am ready to start the time travel story, I remember is another story that I thought would be great. Expect a fb message asking your opinion about this other story.

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