Monday, May 5, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

This week, I've been nominated to participate in a Writing Process Blog Tour by fellow historical-fiction author and blogger Melissa Marsh. Participants share a little about their writing process by answering the tour questions, and then nominate other writers to carry the tour on. So here are my answers to the questions:

What am I working on at the moment?
At present I'm almost halfway through the first draft of a children's historical fantasy, an idea which surprised me greatly since I've literally never written fantasy of any kind. I've also been doing some note-taking and outlining for a Western which is slated to be my next project, I think.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Some reviews of my books have said (meaning it positively, thank goodness) that my writing has an old-fashioned feel, like it could have been written at the time the story is set. I think this is probably true, because so much of what I've learned about writing has come from immersing myself in the literature of days past. That's not to say I wallow in flowery prose; I appreciate the value of good crisp, concise writing as much as anyone. But I'm not afraid to use the longer words or longer sentences or more old-fashioned forms of expression when I need them, and I think that's what makes my style a bit unique.

Speaking of Westerns in particular, as the genre that I have a special fondness for, I think my stories are a little different because I nearly always begin with a focus on the characters and the human story at the root of the plot, rather than the action-based conventions of the genre: the gunfight, the chase, etc. Now very frequently I do use one or more of those familiar elements at some point and enjoy it; I've no objection to that! But the root of the story is usually character-driven.

Why do I write what I do?
Put in its simplest form—because I love it. I've always loved history, and loved both reading and writing stories in a historical setting. There's no unifying mission or message to my body of work as a whole, other than the desire to tell a good story and do the best work that I can. Each individual story has its own life and I have a different vision for each one.

How does my writing process work?
When I get an idea that I think would make a good story, I start by jotting down a brief sketch of it in one of what I call my note-taking notebooks. I let it stew in my mind for a little while, and scribble down pages full of plot points, scraps of dialogue, etc. (For a more detailed look at what a page in my note-taking notebooks generally looks like, go here.) For anything longer than a short story, once I accumulate enough material I usually write out a rough outline. Once I feel ready to actually start, I write my first drafts by hand (I actually print rather than writing in cursive—it comes easier somehow) in a college-ruled notebook.

The next step is typing out the draft, and I do a whole lot of my editing in the process. My handwritten drafts are usually full of suggestions for alternate phrasing squeezed between lines or scribbled in the margins, so here's where I decide which versions to use! Once I've got the second draft in a state where I'm ready to show it to someone, I typically give it to several family members to read, and then take a break from it for a while. For later edits I often print out a copy to mark up, then apply the changes on the computer; and repeat the last few steps as necessary till I'm finally satisfied with it.

The Writing Process Blog Tour will continue next Monday over at Rachel Heffington's blog, so be sure and stop by there!


Melissa Marsh said...

I used to write my stories by hand, too. There's something wonderful about seeing your words in your own handwriting on the page. Though I don't write my stories that way anymore, I still do all my preliminary plotting, character sketches, etc. by hand in my spiral notebooks.

Hannah Gridley said...

I had a pleasant few minutes scoping out other writers in the blogosphere because of this post. I loved the touch of how you linked to your actual notebook pages. I scribble a lot too, including checkmarks and dated x-marks to delete an idea that once appeared good. I left behind the notebooks awhile back, though, and write a great deal on college rule filler paper that I can organize and reorganize in a binder.
Did you know that there was a scientific study a year or two ago that said people actually write at a higher grade level if they write out things on paper before typing it into the computer? My reviewers can almost always tell if I've drafted the excerpt on paper or computer.

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

I use loose paper in binders sometimes too, usually for notes. I think I've heard of some of those studies, too—I'd certainly believe it! I don't think quite as clearly when I'm looking at a screen; I can only get away with it when writing a short scene of something or a bit of flash fiction.

Hamlette said...

Very interesting! I love learning about other writers' writing processes.

I used to write some stories by hand and some on the computer, but it's been probably 4 years since I switched solely to computer. Anymore, I find it's easier to make myself notes, create alternate versions, and so on with MS Word. But I still do lots of notes in notebooks, and I like to do "journal-as-character" exercises for my main characters, which I do only by hand.