Beth Deitchman tagged me to be one of her three victims for the Writing Process Blog Tour. Beth wrote last week that she had seen the phenomenon of the WPBT on the Interwebs and she “secretly longed to be invited.” I laughed. Beth and I make good partners at Luminous Creatures Press because we have such opposite yet complementary ways of looking at things, and this reaction only serves to prove my point.
I heard about the WPBT and was secretly dismayed that someone might ask me to do it—blogging on my process is right up there with going to the dentist or the bike shop on my list of undesirable activities. The last time I blogged on that topic my fingers itched to hit the unpublish button for weeks. Sometimes they still itch.
I’ll try to sound a little less like a fairy who has eaten one too many mushrooms this time around.
What am I working on?
Many things at once, as usual! My main beast is a seven-book fantasy series—I know, I know, feel free to groan. I started writing the first book when I was twelve, so I’ve been groaning for decades. I have just finished a massive revision on Book One, The Last Gantean, and I really hope to publish it before the end of the year—it will be relinquished to beta readers sometime in the next week or so. Or so I claim. Books Two and Three are now under my microscope.
My first published book, The Velocipede Races, has been offered a special edition from Elly Blue Publishing/Taking the Lane, and I’m winding down a revision for that, complete with three new chapters and an epilogue.
I’m also tinkering with a short story about a bikeapocalypse to be submitted to EBP’s feminist bike science fiction anthology, Bikes In Space.
And then I have oh, you know, about ten other novel-length WIPs that I work on intermittently. My work—full time teaching Pilates and running a studio—takes up most of my days. I never get writer’s block. Every time I sit down to write I feel as though I’ve been starving for it, so I’m always eager.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I actually have a ranty blog post in draft form that answers this question in painful detail. I may post it later. Here’s the short-leash version:
I write women in fantasy—women often occupied with traditionally female concerns, not necessarily “strong female leads” who traipse a traditional hero’s path as a substitute for a male lead. With my Lethemia series, I have six female narrators who all tell their own stories—stories that deviate widely from the usual going a-questing, good-versus-evil, bildungsroman fantasy themes. It’s been a challenge trying to balance the norms of the genre with the stories I want to tell.
That said, most of my work is not fixed squarely in the fantasy genre. I call The Velocipede Races and Secret Room “quasi-historical femmepunk.” I often hint at historical eras and events but tweak them to suit my purposes. All my stories are set in worlds where magic might exist and strange possibilities abound, but I might downplay the magic in favor of the human elements of a story.
Why do I write what I write?
Mostly I just flail about in a sea of ideas and do my best to catch them. I have a sense of the big picture behind a story, a concept that filters down through the details of a plot and guides me in a very loose way. The Last Gantean is about identity. The Velocipede Races is about being true to oneself against the odds. Secret Room uses misogyny as its starting point. My Painted Dog stories were inspired by my interest in how the natural world and religion intersect. I have certain themes I return to again and again.
I guess most writing comes from a deep feeling or passion, so I write about what I care about, and I definitely like to have a North-Star concept to steer me across a story’s ocean.
How does my writing process work?
There are so many ways to answer this question. The simple version is: write, read, rewrite, read, revise, read, edit, read, edit, read…repeat.
I make myself a do-list for my writing goals for each day as well as for each month and sometimes even for the year. This keeps me on track. I get stickers when I achieve my checks. Here’s a picture of one of my do-lists:
As you can see, the end of August has arrived, yet I have only earned 5/6 critter stickers. Very disheartening. I want that final owl badly.
When it comes to the first draft, I write every morning directly after waking with a few sips of coffee. Many mornings I only get to write a few sentences before I have to bike to work, although I jealousy guard two mornings a week so I can have four solid hours of writing to get the heavy lifting done. I ruminate on ideas during my bike rides; my brain thinks best when I’m doing repetitive motions and breathing deeply. My big plot ideas always arrive at inopportune moments—in the middle of a ballet performance, on a long bike ride, while in the shower, just before falling asleep—whenever I haven’t got a pen handy to write them down. As soon as I’m in proximity to paper and pen I salvage my ideas and make big messy lists like this:
I edit and revise later in the day. After I’ve taught Pilates I cannot write—I’m in teacher-analyzer mode, but that works well for editing. I love editing. It’s possible that I obsess over editing.
The best part of my process is reading—not just my own stuff, but everything: reviews, pulpy genre paperbacks, big names, little names, poems, essays—usually late at night when I should be sleeping. I collect provoking ideas, active verbs, and sparkling nouns for future use. My dad sends me articles on topics he knows interest me from literary journals and The New Yorker. I also serve as a beta reader for other writers. All this reading gets reprocessed into ideas.
At last! My victims:
I expect Tony Caruso is going to dread this project even more than I did, and I don’t know if he has a blog, but he should, so I’m throwing the gauntlet. I’d post a picture of him here but he’s an international man of mystery. He’s @AllTimeThrones.
I have no idea if Kate Benediktsson frequents Twitter or keeps a blog about her writing, but since I’m curious about her answers to these questions and about when the cruise-ship-murder-mystery is coming out, I tag @azikate. She’s so beautiful your computer might meltdown if I post pictures.
For my final tag, I’m picking @ColbyBalch who just started his blog about running away to join the circus and being a trapeze dad. He also offers proofreading and editing services of all kinds via fivvr. I don’t know how much the writing process blog questions will apply, but I hereby grant permission for him to tweak them to suit his needs. Did I mention that he’s a trapeze artist?