How many of you have heard of “Blog Hops”? If you haven’t, here’s a good definition from Boomer Lit Friday:
Blog hops are events where a group of authors band together (usually around a theme) to offer readers some sort of incentive to go to their blogs and read their work. There is one central site where the participating authors are listed and readers (hoppers) can click through to the various blogs to…read samples of the authors’ work.
I love this idea and was delighted to be invited by a Sandra Harvey, a writer to whom I’m connected on Twitter, to participate in “The Writing Process Blog Hop,” which she joined after being “tagged” by Renee Gian, who was invited by Tracy Barrett, and so on and so on…you get the point!
A special thanks to author Sandra Harvey for inviting me to the Hop… be sure to check out her blog, Drowning in the Idea of Love.
The Writing Process Hop came with four questions which every writer is answering on their own blog; be sure hop to and from each writer’s site (links above and below) to see the specific ways in which they answered the questions. My answers follow:
1. What am I working on?
Beyond my usual Huffington Post articles, my various columns, and this blog here at Rock+Paper+Music, I have just finished the process of publishing my novel, After the Sucker Punch. Now, there’s an adventure! My book falls into the literary fiction category, my favorite category to both read and write, and after the several years of writing, rewriting, editing, rewriting, more editing – well, you know the drill! – I finally began the process of “what’s next?” in earnest. My initial plan was to go the “traditional” route, which meant querying more literary agents over more time than I’d like to admit, with the ultimate result being a sort of “you can’t get there from here” message from the gatekeepers. So, believing in my book and not to be deterred, my plan then evolved into the decision to pursue independent publishing. I was guided by many who’ve gone before, particularly author Martin Crosbie, whose book, How I Sold 30,000 eBooks On Amazon’s Kindle proved profoundly useful and, once the decision was made, I actually found it exhilarating: gathering the necessary professionals (cover artist, editors, formatters, etc.) to help me create exactly the book I wanted to deliver. It has just launched at Amazon, in both ebook and print versions (print version to be posted this week), and I’m excited to see just how far I can take this new adventure. I hope you’ll pick up your own copy, because I’m convinced you will enjoy it! Click here: After the Sucker Punch. Really… I’ll be so pleased! 🙂
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Beyond style and genre, I think the way in which every writer’s work differs from another’s is simply… their voice. The way they see things, the way they’ve experienced life, and how that experience and perspective informs what they find important to put on the page. With literary fiction, as opposed to genre fiction, there are no parameters, no expected elements, formulas, or “types” of storylines. The landscape is wide open and the goal is to tell a story with richness, depth, and a love for how words can convey feelings, images, thoughts, and ideas; how they can move the plot along and bring characters alive to the reader. My work differs from anyone else’s simply because I employ my specific voice, one uniquely formed by the life I’ve lived, the way I see things, and what stands out to me as important to tell in creative storytelling. And since my life has been a particularly eclectic and interesting one (as least from my own perspective!), just imagine how interesting and eclectic my work is? 🙂
3. Why do I write what I do?
Firstly, because I love STORY. And though I enjoy science fiction or fantasy from time to time, my particular wheelhouse, both a reader and writer, is real life, real people; real circumstances. It’s always been that way. When I was young I listened to folk singers because their songs had lyrics that told stories and conveyed feelings I could relate to. I read books that followed the adventures of life on the prairie (Little House…) or growing up in the south (To Kill a Mockingbird) because losing myself in narrative and character that felt real and grounded in life as it exists (or existed) was transporting. I love street photography as a visual statement because it captures moments of human interaction and the stories they tell. I relish good real-life drama in films and television and can binge-watch a well-written series without a speck of guilt! And as an adult reader and writer, I’m drawn to literary fiction for those same reasons: the exploration of life, real life, with its millions of nuances, characters, and narratives. Even in my journalistic and essay work, I’m compelled to infuse whatever story or news event I’m covering with as much of the life involved as possible. And so it follows that I’d write along those same lines: I write what I love to read, end of story. Or… beginning!
4. How does my writing process work?
This an interesting question so, forgive me; I’m going to take a little time with the answer. I’ve been wanting to say some of this out loud for a while now because I think it’s important:
As a younger writer, I would hear teachers and mentors say things like, “a writer MUST write every day” or “if you’re not working on something, anything, then you’re not being a writer,” and I’d feel such pressure to be whatever kind of writer they described as opposed to the writer I was. As an older, more experienced, writer, I know why: THERE ARE NO RULES. No blood has to be shed (forgive my gif!:). There is no one process that works for everyone, that defines what a writer is or isn’t, or even produces the desired result for every single person. It doesn’t matter if you write one book or twenty; if you write a thousand articles or five; if you write every day or once a week, even once a month. If you are a writer, you are a writer. And anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong. I’ve seen young writers (even older writers) stopped in their tracks by this kind of nonsense and so it has to be said!
I don’t write every day; never have. Then other days I write all day and sometimes all night. Sometimes I’ve got something I’m “working on,” other times I have no particular ideas percolating. And yet… I’m still a writer! I didn’t lose my credentials; no one can point their finger and say, “YOU’RE NOT A REAL WRITER!!” Because if they did I’d tell them to shut the f**k up.
My process is this: I write when I’m moved to write; I don’t subscribe to the “blank page theory” (i.e., sitting in front of a blank page in hopes inspiration will come). Never worked for me. I’m lucky; I can honestly say I’ve never had writer’s block, even when deadlines loomed. Because if I don’t have an idea tickling my brain and I want one, it’s simple: I strap on my iPod and go for a power walk with some kind of mesmerizing, beat-oriented music playing to both create a good walking vibe and give my brain room to swirl. And when I get to that physical/meditative state that my walking+music formula incites, ideas come. And when I have those ideas – whether for an article, a blog, a song, a book – I get home, kick off my shoes, and sit down at my computer (I cannot handwrite a damn thing, not even a greeting card!); I place my hands on the keys, open the Muse Portal (every artist knows what that is) and let it flow. I get out of the way. I don’t think while I’m writing; I let it flow from whatever that inspirational channel is, through my fingers, through the keys, and onto the page. If I’m writing dialogue, I let the characters tell me what they want to say; I never tell them. I follow a plot thread as if I’m scurrying to keep up and see where it takes me. When I’m done with a chapter or a paragraph, I open myself up to what’s next; there’s a sense of it, a natural next step that always makes itself known. It’s almost magical, it’s certainly mystical, and that process is one I find truly exhilarating.
And when I’m done writing, I edit. I read everything I write out loud to make sure the rhythm and flow of the words works (it’s also easier to find mistakes that way). Frankly, there’s not a word in a piece I’ve written that’s accidental. I’ll change a “the” to “a” if it flows better or makes more sense. Once I’m done with my edits, my rewrites, I read it all out loud again and when it feels done, it’s done. I don’t do much second-guessing and I’m one of those artists who happens to like my own work so I’m not distracted or detoured by artistic self-loathing. This is useful, because when you write for yourself, follow your own Muse, write on spec; independently publish, you might ultimately be one of only few who reads your work, so you better like it! (Though, really, nowadays with blogs and so many online writing sites, it’s rare that a good writer will end up being only one of few who reads their work. But still!)
And when I’m done/done on my end, I share my longer work (books) with readers and writing colleagues whom I trust and know share my instincts and sensibilities about writing and storytelling. It’s a selective group of experienced, talented people who, I’ve learned over the years, have quite a grasp of what works specifically for my style and sensibilities. I do get the reasoning behind beta readers; they can certainly offer perspective that’s helpful, but I’ve learned throughout my long career that listening to too many voices – all of whom have opinions and their own sense of things – can sometimes muddy up the works, confuse the issue, and shake your own knowingness about your work in a way that’s distracting or overwhelming. Or they can help a lot; it can go either way. But while it’s important to get feedback, opinions and perspective, it’s equally – if not more – important to listen loudest to the voice that’s your own. A good writer trusts their own work, their own instincts, and knows when to implement the notes and edits of another person and when to say, without arrogance and only after honestly reviewing and assessing those opinions, “this is the story I wrote. You might write it another way, but this is what I want to say and how I want to say it.” That resolve may mean you don’t get an agent, sell as many books, or win any awards… or it may mean that you’re absolutely spot-on and doing the exact right thing by sticking to your guns. That’s something every writer has to sort out. It’s your work, the legacy you leave as an artist. Ultimately, it has to be what you want it to be.
And that’s it. My process. I hope you will pick up a copy of After the Sucker Punch and, if so moved, get back to me with your thoughts (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’m always delighted to hear from people for whom the work resonates!
Next up on the Writing Process Blog Hop… authors Saralee Rosenberg and Andrea Frazer. Click over to their blogs (linked below) on May 12th to see how these two talented writers answered the same questions!
Saralee Rosenberg is the author of four high-spirited novels including A LITTLE HELP FROM ABOVE, CLAIRE VOYANT, FATE AND MS. FORTUNE and DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD (Avon/HarperCollins). She has just written her first novel for younger readers, THE MIDDLE SCHOOL MEDIUM. Saralee is also a nationally-known public speaker and writing instructor. Check her website for details and information, and click over to her blog on May 12th for her own answers to these questions!
Andrea Frazer is a published TV, magazine, newspaper and national blog writer (Good Housekeeping/BabyCenter). She’s currently working onsite for Spark Network as their in-house blog and article writer for their faith website Believe.com. While she loves writing about theology, movies and books, her biggest leap of faith involved writing her memoir, Happily Ticked Off. Based on her blog of the same name, Happily Ticked Off follows her journey from despair to hope as she comes to terms with her son’s Tourette Syndrome diagnosis. It’s in the hand of a producer, currently, as she shops agents. (Wish her luck!) Frazer wrote this book as a love letter to other mamas. She’s adamant that the fearful woman learn to focus on her child’s gifts, not an unexpected diagnosis. It’s not what we’re handed, but how we deal with it, that makes all the difference. (And coffee. Who doesn’t need that? Frazer does, and she makes no apologies about it.) Stop by www.happilytickedoff.com on May 12th and see what she has to offer in response to the Blog Hop Writers Process questions!
Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.