I’ve been tagged to do a the Writing Process Blog Post by Jenny Neill. You can read her blog post here.
If you follow these posts–which you can on Twitter by using #MyWritingProcess–you’ll see the wide variety of practices that creativity engenders. We all do it differently, there’s no one right way to write. Which can be comforting where you encounter dogmatic rules or teachers who insist that their method is best.
So, here are my answers to the four questions:
1. What Are You Working On?
Tricksy question. Writers don’t just write, so here’s what’s up today (besides this blog post, of course): I just sent a query to a magazine, and put in four ideas for blog posts to another site. I check a couple of writing job sites each day. I also investigate writing markets that I hear about: who’s buying what sort of article, and how much do they pay? What kind of stories are they looking for?
I have two talks to give in September–one an hour long, so I must prepare those. The talks are in support of my books in a roundabout way–meaning, I wouldn’t be invited to a writing group to give a talk if I hadn’t written a couple of books, and the books will be available for purchase (fingers crossed). In support of those books, I also blog and stay active on Facebook.
About an hour each day is spent on my WritersCalendarLA.com website–a calendar of events in Los Angeles of interest to writers.
But I sit down and write as well as doing all that other stuff. I’m about 80% done with the next nonfiction book. and I work on that every day. Well, I try to work on it every day–today, I slipped up.
2. How Does Your Work Differ from Others of Its Genre?
I wrote a historical novel about Ancient Gaul, then a nonfiction book about Baby Boomer trivia, so I’m tempted to answer “Genres, schmenres.” But both books are works of history and required a lot of research, and so history is my genre. Not every article I write is about history, but because I do have a degree in the subject, my queries in that area meet with a little more success.
I like to think I’m different from most historians in that I am not academic or dry. I don’t footnote everything (although some magazines request a fully footnoted manuscript). And I differ from most non-historians in my devotion to accuracy and detail. I enjoy research; I make sure of my facts.
My life as an author would be much easier if I had stuck to one genre and carved myself a nice little unique place in it, but freelancing teaches you different lessons. When you freelance, you must be able to switch from topic to topic on demand. History, especially, is not a big seller, so I write about other subjects as well.
3. Why Do You Write What You Do?
A lot of writing is opportunistic. We write what we do because this is the writing that pays the bills–that kind of loops back to the previous section.
That said, most of the topics I pitch are of interest to me. Of course, right? Who would ask to write a story about algebraic functions if they hated math?
But even when I’ve been asked to write about a subject that bores me–home maintenance for air conditioning systems for example–I look at a few websites until I can follow the mechanics of how those systems work and how the pieces fit together. Then, I find it interesting–as if it were a puzzle and I had to devise clues and workarounds.
The books, though, are entirely my choice and I write what I enjoy. That’s probably why time just disappears when I work on those stories.
4. How Does Your Writing Process Work?
I write whether I feel like it or not. Oddly enough, very good prose can result from forcing yourself to write even when you’re uninspired.
For nonfiction, I often start writing in the middle of a piece. When I’m researching, I’ll find little stories or facts that I want to include, and I’ll start scribbling, playing with them, making paragraphs. I know absolutely that I still need a lede and an introductory paragraph or two, but writing out the middle helps me see both how the beginning should go, and what the ending will be. You could say I build a bridge first, then look for the best landing spots on each bank.
Then I rewrite. Constantly. And when I think I’m done, I put the work aside for a day or two, then reread it. I always find something to change! It’s amazing how a good night’s sleep refreshes your eyes and your brain.
I don’t work with outlines usually; the exception is personal essays. I find that an essay goes astray very quickly if I don’t create an outline. I need to know what my main points will be so I can move from one to the other. My guess is that’s because an essay is not a story, necessarily. The beginning, middle, and end are not self-evident so I must impose a structure.
And . . . that’s it!
Now I Tag Three Other Bloggers:
Dana Melton and Jessica Alexander, who publish under the pen name Kirby Howell, have been writing together since 2000 when they met at the University of Alabama. Dana, a native Southerner, quickly showed Jessica the joys of living below the Mason Dixon Line. Having lived in nearly every other part of the country, it didn’t take Jessica long to acclimate to sweet tea, grits, and football. They now live in Los Angeles with their husbands and have penned two young adult novels, Autumn in the City of Angels, and its sequel, Autumn in the Dark Meadows. Their blog is at KirbyHowell.com.
Debra Ann Pawlak writes from southeastern Michigan. Her latest book, Bringing Up Oscar, The Men and Women Who Founded the Academy, is available online in hardcover, paperback, ebook and audio versions. Her work has also appeared in various publications such as Chicken Soup for the Soul, Scoliosis Quarterly, Aviation History, Pennsylvania Heritage, The Writer and Michigan History Magazines. To learn more, please visit her website at DebraAnnPawlak.com or her Facebook page (Hollywood: Tales from Tinsel Town). You can follow her on Twitter too: @DAPwriter.
Barbie Herrera writes under the pen name, Martha Emms. Her book, Portrait of Our Marriage: Memoirs of Love, Family, the Internet, and Obsession takes you behind closed doors into the hidden world of a couple’s sexual relationship. Follow their journey as a husband’s casual interest in pornography escalates and changes their lives. Intimate details shared from eight women’s lives add to this blatantly real addiction of our time. This story has mature content but is not pornographic. Follow Martha on Facebook and @barbiesway on Twitter, or on her MarthaEmms blog.