Writing Process Meme

The lovely Elin Gregory tagged me for a meme—and since I can’t resist memes, or talking about writing, here goes. (Oh, you can find her posting here.)

What am I working on?

Right now I’m editing two Contemporary Paranormals (one novel length and one that may grow into a 20-30K novella), and a YA short, and drafting a story for the Goodreads Don’t Read in the Closet event. Two more stories are knocking at the door but they have to wait until I’ve met the deadline for the GR story.

How does my work differ from others?

Not sure exactly but it must because it doesn’t seem to have mass appeal. I’m trying to move a little closer to mainstream but I’ve never been quite sure where the middle of the road is, so we’ll see what comes from that experiment.

I come from a lit fic and non-fiction background (which is hilarious, since i grew up in public housing and am still wildly undereducated) and mostly write about folks for whom being part of the middle class is the impossible dream, or just plain strange little stories (like kink that’s not BDSM—what was I thinking?!). Also, I don’t think a sex scene requires penetration which is a departure in MM as far as I can tell, regardless of the reality of queer sex practices. But maybe my opinion goes back to coming of age in the early 80s.

Why do I write what I do?

Because people will publish it and read it? Not the whole truth, but close enough. I’m a bisexual woman whose had, let’s just say a wealth of experiences to draw from in many areas of the queer experience, so that’s what I write. I’ve been writing fiction with the goal of publication since 1995, published since 1998—but the stories with female protagonists haven’t been picked up by paying markets or I’d write more of them. It’s just like anywhere in literature—stories about male characters are seen as more universal and stories with female characters are seen as niche. Not being critical, just an observation.

I’m working on YA fiction with bisexual main characters, but it’s hard to find a place for a piece of LGBT YA fiction unless the heroine ends up in love with another girl at the end. I think there should be a place for bi lit that’s not dependent on a same-sex Romantic ending, but I don’t know if I’ve found one yet (we’ll see within the next few weeks *fingers crossed*). But a lack of interest never stopped me from writing before. 🙂

photo credit: Peter Ras via photopin cc

How does my writing process work?

Ha! Raven (the muse) is laughing their ass off in my head.
I don’t have a solid process, but I do this a lot:

  • See something shiny and then start to hear a new voice in my head;
  • Struggle to get the first bits down;
  • On the verge of falling asleep get a lightning bolt of inspiration that won’t let me close my eyes until I’ve scribbled at least a half-dozen pages of notes, snippets of dialogue, etc.;
  • Dedicate months to draft upon draft until the story reveals itself to me;
  • Hit or miss search for a beta;
  • Revise until I feel it’s ready to sub.

Elin says I’m supposed to tag more authors, so I’m tagging Grace R. Duncan, CJane Elliott, Brynn Stein, and Dianne Hartsock. Have at it, gals!

My Second Genre Dilemma

It’s been over a year now since my first MM Erotic Romance was published.

That looks so cool it gets its own paragraph.  🙂

During my holiday break I gave serious thought to what I wanted to write in 2014, and thought my “second genre” would be YA. I love YA—especially paranormal and sci fi and just about anything that’s really out there. Some of my favorite authors write YA—many write it exclusively (as far as I know)—and sometimes I just get a cool YA story. Well, I think they’re cool; so far I’m not of the majority opinion, which is fine.

Today I learned I won’t be a Harmony Ink author—at least not with the manuscript I sent them a few weeks ago. And instead of pulling on my shoes and heading for the Ben & Jerry’s aisle at Safeway, I started thinking about what I want 2014 to look like writing-wise. (Probably didn’t hurt that I finished drafting Joe & Kai’s story right before I saw that rejection email.)

Do I want to work on that novel and try to sub it elsewhere? What about the short I’ve been working on for the H.I. antho? Do I want to work on one of the many other YA story nuggets I have stewing in my brain & languishing on my hard drive in the hopes H.I. will like one of those?

I think maybe I don’t.

I’m enjoying writing ERom, and just might write one with different pairings, but I don’t think I want to worry about maintaining another online presence. I know many authors write YA and ERom under the same name, but I didn’t feel comfortable doing that. I dig hanging out with all the cool kids online but it’s not the easiest thing for me to do as one person, let alone two.

Luckily, I don’t have to commit to anything right now. I have a story to polish before February 1st, and the paranormal is one pivotal scene away from being fully drafted (finally!!). After those are finished, who knows? In keeping with my 2014 resolution to Have More Fun—that’s my criteria for stories as well. Whatever will be the most fun (and yes, I consider writing angst fun—you’ve been warned!), that’s what I’ll be writing.

Since I am so close to finishing all my current WIPS, though, I thought I’d open the floor to ideas. What would you like to read late this year or early next?

tilted rose

 

A slow ponder…

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2014 has been a busy year so far! Mostly it’s a good-busy, and I hope you can say the same. In addition to being a year when I have more fun, 2014 looks like a year for unpacking and re-examining expectations—because growing sometimes means outgrowing the labels we stick on our own chests.

So far this year I’ve gone to my first M/M Romance Meet-up (which was nerve-wracking and more fun than I dared hope), gone on two interviews for internships (one at a fancy litigation firm on the 18th floor of a swaaaaaaaaaaaanky downtown building), and written over 13K words! There may’ve been classes and football games and charity knitting in there too.

A conversation I shamelessly listened-in on at the meet-up (which for some reason my brain refuses to call a party because I just don’t go to many parties) inspired me to shoot for the February 1st deadline to submit to Dreamspinner’s Daily Dose anthology even though I didn’t start writing until January 1st. I’m only about 7K in, but I can see most (if not all) of the rest and the guys are helping more than I expected. Not that that’s usually a problem, but getting to know someone well enough to write from inside their head can take a while.

I’ve always thought of myself as a slow writer. Not a big deal, everyone lives at their own pace. But why did I slap that label on my forehead and treat it like something permanent? Because it took me a year to write a mainstream novel? Never mind that I worked full-time+, went to school part-time, and was a single parent while I tried to go the whole NY Agent/Big Six route—a whole year felt like a long time to work on a single piece of fiction. And never mind that writers I love sometimes take five times that long to complete a novel. I felt slow, like I wasn’t measuring up to…something…

Maybe it’s time to re-examine the idea that I’m a slow writer. Sure, I’m a full-time student in a demanding program, but Kiddo’s (basically) grown up, and right now I don’t have a day job. I wrote “Toy Run” in about a month and that turned out pretty well. Maybe it depends on the characters—I’ve heard novelists say that every time they start a new story they have to learn how to write that particular book. Maybe there’s something to that.

At any rate, I’ve already managed to cut my time in half—The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds only took about six months to write, after I saw a picture and was (figuratively) struck by lightning. It’s under consideration right now, but even if it’s not accepted for publication it’s still a novel. And I will submit the short story (which I just realized has no title because the working title I’ve been using doesn’t fit at all) by the February 1st deadline. Because I really do love deadlines—they keep goals clear and quantifiable so when you meet one you know you’ve accomplished something (and can celebrate appropriately).

So this is what I’ve been pondering so far this year—how we limit ourselves by forgetting to re-examine our own expectations of what we can do. It feels pretty good! To let a good change sink in, I mean, not the forgetting part.

tilted rose

It’s like sucking a golf ball through a garden hose.

It’s probably safe to say that every writer on the planet has an opinion on Writer’s Block.  Some suffer from and through it on a regular basis, while others deny its existence entirely.  Of course I have to be contrary about the whole thing—I think it’s not so much a blockage as an emptiness.  Sometimes I just feel as though I’ve used up all my words.

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The feeling is always  a surprise, no matter how many times it’s washed over me.  I’ll be cooking along on a story and out of the blue I’ll open the doc to write and nothing comes out.  Well, nothing good anyway.  See, to me, that’s the real problem—and maybe I should amend my sweeping statement.

Sometimes I feel as though I’ve used up all my good words.

I’ve just reached the other side of an episode like that, which is why it’s on my mind.  I’ve had a lot of problems with this story, which I’ll call CS.  I started drafting it years ago, when I was still beating my head against the mainstream wall surrounding the 212 in NYC.  (Or maybe just swimming against the current.  Whatever it was, I’ve stopped doing it.)  As soon as I let the protagonist be the man he always wanted to be (which is to say, an actual man) things started flowing.  I was up to about 30K words before I slowed down, and ultimately the whole thing ground to a halt.  Part of that was sheer lack of time, and the fact that after studying for 8 hours or more my brain felt a little like Cream of Wheat.  But that didn’t explain why I couldn’t work at midday or first thing in the morning.  I tried everything, until I realized it felt like I was reaching into an empty bucket.

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Okay, this is chocolate mousse but I never liked Cream of Wheat and if my brain’s going to resemble something whipped it would be chocolate flavored.

So that night when I went to bed I thought about a completely different story.  I didn’t search for a thread of CS to pull on in the hope that it would unravel whatever was blocking the story, I just let it go (with the promise to R & M that I’d be back once they shaped up and started talking sense again).  The next day I read twice (which, this term, is a rare luxury).

The day after that, M cleared his throat and very politely said, “Here you go.”  Because he’s very polite. And now most, if not all, of the holes are filled.  With actual pictures and words and causality.  It’s a beautiful thing.

In my head, anyway.  I still have to find the time and words and brain power to put them all into the story itself, but that’ll come.  Soon.  My goal is to start on my own edits for CS by March 27.  Hopefully putting it down in black and white will help remind me that when the term is over I can’t collapse and sleep for a week.  If I wanted to write stories nobody would ever read I would’ve left R with a vagina instead of letting him be a man who finds love in a deliciously curious way.

What are your feelings on writer’s block?  Does it exist?  If you’ve ever had it, how did you get past it?

photo credit/empty buckets: dongato via photopin cc
photo credit/chocolate mousse: rofi via photopin cc

Dreaming of Romance

Two of my most valuable writing tools are daydreaming and quiet observation.  Nothing new here, but I wouldn’t be doing much writing without them.

A long time ago I went to a Terry Brooks reading/signing (no, not THAT long ago!).  He had just released The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, Ilse Witch and the appearance was in a tiny independent bookstore in a small town about a half hour outside Portland.  Someone asked how he got the idea for his Running With The Demon series, and he answered that he decided to write a story about domestic violence and then he just sat for a while, daydreamed, and let things happen.  I’m pretty sure it was on a beach, but I could just be projecting my own favorite place to sit and daydream onto this memory.

At another reading (same tiny indie bookstore) Chuck Palahniuk said he thinks about one or two things he wants his main character to do/be and as he listens and writes, more about the character will “suggest itself” to him.  I’ve never forgotten that phrase—suggest itself—because in order to hear any suggestions a character or story may present to you, you’d have to be listening.  If the thing you’re listening to doesn’t physically exist, I’m pretty sure you have to be daydreaming.

Observing is harder, IMO.  I’m a natural daydreamer—it’s innate—I was born with the talent to sit and stare into space and listen to the voices in my head.  Sometimes it freaks people out, which has been perversely satisfying at times, but I digress.

Observing, or to be more specific, active observation, means adopting the same posture you would while daydreaming and then turning the focus outward.  I don’t’ have any anecdotes about this, probably because it’s not something I’m naturally wired to do.  Oh, I love to people-watch and will peer into anyone’s living room widow if the curtains are open but the tendency is always there to put what I see into the context of my own life and experience, to impose my own interpretation on what I see as I’m seeing it.  There’s nothing wrong with interpreting what we see, but I do think writers shortchange themselves if they do so while in the middle of a new experience.  I can figure out what I think about the street performer on the train home, but only if I really pay attention while she’s performing.  Skipping to the interpretation is like having salad and then dessert.  No, that’s a bad analogy; I like having salad for dinner, and dessert at any time is fine by me.

Back to daydreaming and observation.  I started a new story this week, one that’s been percolating a while because of the television commercials a local business has been producing for 20+ years.  The two proprietors look as though they’re still good friends after all this time and over the years I’ve shipped them pretty hard during their 20-30 second appearances.  A few weeks ago I read a submission call for 2013 and somehow these two things tangled up in my writer-brain and turned into a character.  He was a little shy at first, but the more I listen to him the more he speaks.  And the coolest part is that he’s not exactly who I’d envisioned before I started.

I love it when that happens.

I’m off to set the stage and then listen to my new guy for a while.  Sweet day-dreams, everyone!