A big Thank You to Dot Caffrey for inviting me to join My Writing Process – The Blog Tour. I would also like to mention that Anita Knowles, who also kindly asked me to join this blog tour some time back (and I couldn’t participate) receives my gratitude for thinking of me as well. So this blog post is in honor of both of you.
So why am I posting about writing, on a blog about self-reliance? If you’re a writer, you probably know by now that whether you are traditionally published or indie published, you are expected to do your own marketing – that’s being pretty self-reliant in my eyes! Yeah, I love the romantic notion of sitting at the beach writing my next novel – but honestly the majority of work comes while putting my butt firmly in the chair for many hours, while still in my robe, hair in braids, no makeup and forgetting to stop and eat. There’s lots of staring at the blank wall and hair twisting. We writers are a self-reliant batch – we couldn’t survive otherwise. So – back to this blog tour.
What am I working on?
After writing and submitting two suspense/thriller novels, I took my agent’s advice and made a complete 360 turn away for this third book. Love in the Abstract, my current work in progress, is a romantic suspense. It doesn’t really qualify for the Romance genre, but would instead be considered Women’s Fiction.
“Same Same, but different”, as they like to say in Thailand.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I write for genre fiction – so there are reader expectations that have to be met. But I strive to make sure my voice is recognizable, consistent and strong.
They say every story has been done before…and re-done and re-imagined. So I do work diligently to add some sort of twist to the plot or character arc that hopefully makes it more unique than the average.
That said, my first two books got me a NY agent, yet no book deal. We came very close more than a few times with some major houses. I’ve been told my writing is beyond that of a debut writer. Several houses loved the premise, the writing, the characters, and saw my books as a series…but no one seemed to know how to market them, or want to take a chance on them. This is our world today.
You can read my loglines for each of my books here and judge for yourself.
In my first book, Tracker, the sheriff calls in Native American tracker, Fox Walker, to disprove the rumor a killer is hiding in a nearby Colorado wilderness. Walker discovers instead a woman, living as a primitive, with no memory of her past.
In Pursuit, the FBI asks for Fox Walker’s assistance in tracking down an escaped convict, who made it into the Colorado National Forest. Walker soon learns that the fugitive is a former Navy SEAL…with a specialty in wildness survival. And he’s innocent.
Love in the Abstract is about famous artist, Liz Anderson, who believes escaping her LA art world for the peaceful countryside will help her find her muse again. She has no plans for falling for Luke, a rugged outdoorsman, or becoming the main suspect in a murder investigation.
The fun of writing Love in the Abstract is that all the little nuances and innocent changes that Liz makes to her appearance in the beginning of the story come back in the end to implicate her in a murder – that she didn’t commit.
Why do I write what I do?
I love to read suspense and thrillers, so my stories tend to follow that genre. But the stories that I love best to read are character driven vs. high action ‘that never stops’. I love psychological thrillers.
My favorite author is Thomas Harris. His books Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs are stories I’ve studied for years – for the plot structure and how he makes me care about the characters. That’s ultimately why I keep turning the pages – I am invested in the character. So I enjoy writing about people whom I care about – even though they are fictional (don’t tell them please). You’ll also see lots of scenes either in the wilderness, or at least the out of doors in all of my books. I’m a big fan of wilderness survival, camping and backpacking and it gets reflected in my writing.
How does my writing process work?
It’s been different for each book because I learn more about the craft of writing each time I work on a manuscript. Example: my first book took me four years and three complete revisions for the final product that got me an agent. The second book took me four months.
Sometimes it starts with a character I want to write about, but it always has to be tied to a theme. Not the plot or premise – but the theme behind the story. It can be as simple as “the love of money is the root to all evil”. The reader may never consciously know what the theme is – but it will be the backbone of the plot and character development. The theme is paramount because every decision I make during the writing of the story will be bounced off this theme to make sure I am staying consistent. It also helps me pick out locations and descriptions – the little touches that carry the theme throughout the entire book.
Next I create what I call a Timeline. I’m not an outliner – but neither am I a pantser.
I don’t like the confines of outlining every chapter and I don’t have enough time to write by the seat of my pants and let my characters run off willy nilly to far away places, only to have to rein them in again. I have to make every minute of my writing time count. So I do a Timeline, which is a list of action steps that must happen in order for the story to move forward and arrive at the ending that I want (or close to it – it usually surprises me a little).
My Timelines follow this simple formula – found in the fabulous little book called Invisible Ink:
Once upon a time…
And every day…
Until one day…
And because of this…
And because of this…
And every since that day…
I fit these seven steps into a three act form and voila – there you have a Timeline!
I then create character backgrounds (history) and ARC’s (archetypes) for every character in the book.
Now I can start writing. I use the Timeline as a guideline. Before I start a new chapter, I look at what the next action step is and decide if I need to add one or more chapters to get there.
I love to schedule the beginning of a new book around the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. This forces me to (almost literally) puke out the words onto the page in order to meet the deadline of 50,000 words at the end of the month. It makes me just write, without constantly self-editing my work. It makes me keep forging ahead without letting the critics in my head get control.
This horrid, puked out, first draft of 50,000 words allows me to get to know the characters intimately, discover their voices – and I learn what does and doesn’t work for my plot. In other words, when I sit down again, I have a better idea of how to get where I’m going.
When I write a chapter I start out picturing the entire scene in my head – like a movie. Then I write down what I’ve seen. I go back in and add dialogue. During the next edit I’ll add in descriptions. I’m a spare writer because I like reading spare writing. I tend to skip entire paragraphs of description when I’m reading – so I write the way I like to read.
This entire process allows me to make the most of my limited writing hours and keeps me on track. Otherwise, I’d get to the end of the manuscript and discover ten or so chapters that would have to be cut. And we all know how much we hate to kill our darlings!
Thanks for reading – I would love to hear from you! Write on!
Up Next: My friend, Author, Lynne Kennedy will be posting on June 16th. I hope you will take time to also read her About the Author page – I think you’ll find her background as fascinating as how she’s used her experience to develop the premise for her books.