THE WRITING PROCESS BLOG HOP – Writers Reveal Their Processes.

by sjbgilmour

The extraordinarily talented Nansi Kunze tagged me to answer a few blog hop questions.  You can read her responses to the same questions here.  Nansi’s books MishapsDangerously Placed, and Kill The Music are YA ripsnorters (that means really, really good), and worth checking out!

The previous writers to answer questions in this blog hop are Jennifer ScoullarKathryn Ledson, and Ellie Marney.

1     What am I working on?

This probably puts me firmly in the bonkers basket, but I’ve got three projects on the go right now, and they’re all different genres.  But then, I’m not sure if “sane” and “writer” can ever be used to describe a single person.

One WIP is a short I’ve just about finished polishing for my werewolf series, the Pack Coppernick tales.  This one’s dealing with a particularly dark member of Sarah Coppernick’s (the protagonist in the main series, The Adventures of Sarah Coppernick), friends, and so is taking a bit more time to get right.  I have to keep it still YA enough to appeal to the same readers, but also expand on this character’s dark side.

The second WIP is a gory cop V serial killer slasher called Swapper.  That takes me to some pretty dark places at times, so I can’t work on it too much for too long or I start looking at everyone and wondering just what my killer would do to them.  I’d prefer to save such looks for door-to-door salesmen and bank managers.  So, when I start using them with checkout chicks and co-workers, I know I need to put Swapper back in his cage for a bit.

The third is top secret.  I’m not even going to pub it under my own name.  All I can tell you is it’s not for the same readers as my YA stuff.

2    How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Well, being multi-genre, I guess that’s hard to answer, but I’ll give it a go.  My fantasy stuff certainly draws on classic mythology as well as the popularity of werewolves etc, only I’ve made werewolves the good guys.  In fact, they’re not even from Earth.  I’ve managed to create whole new worlds for some of these creatures – gnomes, elves, werewolves, goblins etc – they’re all aliens and only on Earth to either protect it, or avoid taxes on their home-worlds.

I also try to make them as Australian as possible.  I use the metric system, as well as local places and phrases.  I thought at first that might not go down too well with US and UK readers, but I’ve not had a single complaint about it yet.

My crime and other stuff is also Aussie, but other than that, I’m not sure I’m the best person to say what sets it apart.  Maybe my readers can?  (Like my not-so-subtle request for reviews?  Hint hint!  I’ll make it worth your while!)

3    Why do I write what I do?

Oh, man!   I write multi-genre because multi-genre ideas set up residence in my noggin.  Once those ideas start squatting in my head, they can make a right mess.  If I don’t evict them out onto the page, the roof will cave in and I’ll go bananas.

I think that leads to the real question: Why do I write?  The answer’s simple.  I don’t know how many artists in how many genres I’ve heard say the same thing.  It’s not about the money or the fame or feeding our precious egos – all that comes later, if we’re lucky.  No, we all write, create, paint, sing, sculpt and so on, because if we don’t, we’ll go fucking nuts.  It’s our own private form of therapy.  It’s not always effective, since again, many writers I know are medicated, or should be, but there you have it.

4    How does my writing process work?

I used to be a complete pantser, but now I have to plot things out, kind of.  I scribble out a brief outline of chapters and an overview of how I want the story to go.  Oddly enough, I often start at the end.  I know how the grand finale is supposed to play out, and I write my various characters, scenes, and chapters to head in that general direction.  They don’t always want to go where I want them to, so it can be a bit of a challenge at times.  It’s a bit like herding sheep…  …only I don’t have a sheepdog and I can’t whistle…  That’s not a very good analogy, is it?  Damn.  Why, oh why did I pick writing?  I knew I should have learned to draw.

Anyway, I used to use exercise books, post-its and other random pieces of paper.  Now I use Scrivener * and its corkboard facility, which is an absolute godsend.  I can plan stuff properly, and stay on track thanks to not losing my notes.  (* I don’t work for Scrivener, and I’m not receiving any form of payment from them.  It’s simply the best software I’ve come across.  It compiles to ebooks, its research, notes and corkboard functions are wonderful, and it doesn’t have all the extra cruft you just don’t use or need that MS Word does.)

Of course, that can change big time once I begin writing.  As I mentioned, my characters are a bit like a mob of sheep.  Sometimes, I need to corral them.  Sometimes, I need to let them wander.  When I’m doing that, I can only write one or two scenes at a time.  Since each character is different, and will interact differently with others I’ve created and the settings and situations into which I plonk them, often the outcome is a chapter ending or scene winding up completely differently than what I planned.  If I really like the way that turned out, sometimes I have to go back to my main outline and make a few adjustments.

Sometimes it’s fun to just let characters off the leash, I mean completely off the reservation, just to see how things go.  Find your character’s flaws.  You know, anger, greed, jealousy, stubbornness, etc, and let one or two take over, just as it happens to real people sometimes.  That can mean I’ll occasionally have to scrap large chunks of text, go back and alter course, and then start again, but it’s worth it.  Of course doing that can also affect my moods, but then my moods have always been kinda scrambled anyway.  I guess it makes me a character writer the way some actors are character actors.  I was going to say “stars” instead of “actors”, and though the lovely Nansi called me a gun, I’m far from being a star…  yet.

It also means there’s a lot of me in those characters.  We humans, we’re like vegetable soup.  We all have the same basic ingredients or characteristics, only in varying quantities, just like every pot of minestrone is different.  Sometimes it’s hard to write a character with high levels of personality traits of which I have only low levels, but if you can get into the zone; into that character’s head, you’re there.

Music helps too.  I don’t mean as a background music, although many writers I know say they need some music playing.  No, I mean individual songs or even soundtracks for certain characters.  This morning I was writing a scene, and an early Queen song, March of the Black Queen, seemed to fit this character the way The Imperial March fits Darth Vader.  Funnily enough, I seem to do this more with antagonists than protagonists.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because the bad guys are more fun to write.  Umm, don’t mention that to my shrink, okay?

All that leads up to a fairly solid piece.  Then I start editing.  I read it.  Then I read it again.  If it’s age appropriate, I read it to my eldest daughter.  If not, I read it out loud to myself.  Now that’s something I find very, very helpful.  Read your work out loud.  Even if it’s to yourself.  You might talk yourself hoarse, and look and sound crazy, but it really does help.  If you can’t speak the words you’ve written so that they sound right and make sense, then you need to re-write them.  For a full-length piece, that can take a week, at least.  When I’ve done that, I hand it over to a couple of beta readers, then I go and sit in a corner and rock back and forth.  The nervousness doesn’t wear off until I get the notes back.  Then I send it off to proofers, and wait again for all that lovely red ink.

Lovely?  Yes.  Lovely.  I want proofers and beta-readers to rip my stuff to shreds.  I may not act on every suggestion they make, but the more input I get before I hit “publish”, the fewer remarks about errors I’ll get in subsequent reviews.  There.  That’s my process.  Now that I’ve just read that, even though it makes perfect sense to me, to others it might be like The Doctor describing time.  I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

***

Well, wasn’t that fun!?  I should do this kind of thing more often.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even revive my 20 questions blogs again.  In the meantime, I’m tagging a great indy sci-fi writer called Catrina Taylor.  If you’ve not read her stuff, get out there and find her!  She’s on FBTwitterAmazon, and of course, her blog.

Sam
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