It's always interesting to hear how someone else attacks the whole novel-writing process. No two people approach it quite the same way, yet it seems you can learn a little something from every author once you pick their brain. My good friend VR Christensen, author of Victorian-Era Historical Fiction (including her latest novel, Cry of the Peacock) has invited me on a blog tour all about authors and writing processes. Every author is given the same four questions to answer, and those questions are then passed on to another author (or two or three). So here are my questions and answers:
1) What am I working on now?
Well, it's a bit of a departure from LarynRising (The Chronicles of Nequam, Book One) and its sequel, Finding Shemballah. My current project is a middle reader titled The Gift of the Cornesh, and it fits firmly within the Fantasy genre. I know it's considered risky to hop around from one genre to the next (not to mention switching up target audiences in such a drastic fashion), but sometimes you just have to write what you have to write. For me, the pivotal moment happened one day when I was (once again) neglecting my children (and their laundry) while caught up in the haze of a writing frenzy. Somewhere in there my daughter—then six, now eight—wandered up and asked me if I was ever going to read her the 'story' I was writing. I stopped what I was doing, looked up at her, and realized it would probably be at least a decade before she would be ready to appreciate the manuscript that was stealing her mother away from her.
In that moment, Isla Bianca Marcelliana Tortar, Princess of the Realm; Duchess of the Six Isles, was born—complete with blond hair, blue eyes, and three older brothers.
I don't know what exactly happened, but I suddenly knew that I had to write something my kids could appreciate while they were still young. Something they could identify with. Something that represented them and gave a them a reason to be invested when they were missing meals, clean underwear, and all the other things that go along with having a mother who is continually in the throes of writing 'some dumb book' all the time.
The results? So far, so good. They're all very interested in the fates of their alter egos, and I'm having a ton of fun writing them. I'm currently somewhere in the bog otherwise known as the-middle-of-the-blasted-book, but I'm planning on coming out on the other side alive and well by the first of July, so wish me luck!
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well, in terms of Laryn Rising, the challenge would be finding the genre in the first place. Laryn, my protagonist, leaves a dystopian-type futuristic society (with her sister and 500 other young women) to join with a group of colonists traveling to a pastoral colony on a distant planet. Her story is all about overcoming her identity as a member of the Federation's lowest caste and struggling to assimilate from a world where everything was provided for her (and demanded of her) into a society where she must be completely self-sufficient. There's a space ship and interplanetary travel, yet the theme is far from Science Fiction, and the target audience is definitely not men (although I've received some surprisingly great reviews from the men who've read it). If anything, it falls into the Women's Fiction category - it's just hard to sell that in the book blurb.
From the reader's standpoint, I would say Laryn Rising and its sequel, Finding Shemballa, are pretty unique as far as setting and protagonist-circumstance are concerned. As a History major, I was inspired by the history of our country, and the resilience of oppressed souls fighting for freedom and family. I am also fascinated by the idea of taking someone from the future and watching them learn the basic building blocks of frontier life. Basically, my books tell an old and familiar story of the human experience from a new and different angle, with a heroine who's struggles aren't quite like those of any fictional character I've ever come across.
3) Why do I write what I do?
All I know is that I need a purpose before I can write anything. Ever. And for me, that purpose has to be personal, and it has to carry some weight. Taking regular people and watching what they do under extraordinary pressure fascinates me. Sometimes I look around at my friends, family, neighbors, etc., and wonder who we would become in a crisis. Who would stand up and lead? Who would collapse under the pressure? Would the person to collapse be the one we all thought would save us? And then there's the big question of Why? What motivates people's responses to a crisis, and how can an ordinary person rise up and do extraordinary things? And all of this is quickly followed by the terrifying question of which person I would be?
Consequently, I also find great purpose in writing humor. I had (still have/greatly neglect) a humor blog for a few years, and I love laughter. I love taking the mundane and finding the funny in it. Why? Because let's face it—the majority of life is mundane, and if we can't find humor in the mundane then life isn't any fun. (For a sampling of my other blog, go here.)
4) How does my writing process work?
For me it starts with a character and a concept. Whether it's the idea of a twenty-something young woman jumping into the unknown for a chance at freedom for herself and her sisters, or an almost-thirteen-year-old Princess who happens along a magic silver egg with a fantastic creature waiting to hatch out of it, I have to know who my protagonist is, what they're doing, and why.
This generally leads to a word document with names and sketches of all my main characters, a sketch of the setting, and roughed-out plot plan. Everyone has to be named before I can write them in, and I usually spend a lot of time (generally in the bathtub) filling in details and motivations and all the why's and wherefore's. For me, everything has to make sense. If I can't explain it, I can't use it. Period.
Then start writing. My general strategy is to write from one conflict to the next. As soon as one conflict is wrapped up, I see where that leaves things, figure out what the next one will be, and then I write myself there. This is mostly determined by what things need to take place logistically, and what I want the reader to see/know/understand about my character. For instance, logistically, Princess Isla must find the golden egg, and I also need to establish her camaraderie with her next-older brother and his best friend Roy. Naturally, this leads to them planning a crazy scheme to do something they have no business doing, which then leaves Isla wandering lost through the mountains alone—at night—thus giving her the perfect opportunity to find said magic egg.
I do keep an outline of sorts in my head, and I like to have a list of all my major plot points as well. This keeps me heading in the right direction and helps me see if I start veering off course. It does leave me with a significant amount of excess material, but thankfully I have a younger sister who is only too happy to go through and brutally eliminate every unnecessary thing (and then some), complete with snarky little comments like "Please, we've heard this ten times already!", "This is so boring," and, "You must cut this. Now."
And then the edit begins. I've been doing freelance editing work for almost seven years, and the most frustrating thing about editing other people's work is watching them quit when they think it's 'good enough'. This is also (in my opinion) the plague of self-published books. Too many author's think they're done, or want to be done, when they really should have two or three more rounds of edits to go through. I get it, though, because there is no agent or editor holding a bar over our heads. There isn't a team of editors and proofreaders at our disposal, and those last few hurdles are usually left because they're the hardest ones to get over.
To combat these obstacles, I use a pretty extensive network of beta readers, and I pick their brains mercilessly. With that said, I've learned to listen to consensus. It really doesn't matter how much you love that scene, or what you think that introspective passage adds to your novel, if five out of six people are bored, confused, or irritated by it, it's not working. If there's one thing I know, it's that you can't write in a vacuum. Other people have to be involved in your writing process if you want it to successfully make contact with readers, and that means reaching out and finding people to give you honest, intelligent, constructive feedback.
When it comes to editing and revising, my system is far more specific and detailed than what we have room for here, but that's the gist. When I'm finally satisfied with everything, I read my manuscript out loud to myself, check once more for errors, then send it to my proofreader and two or three other sets of eyes. Then, when I'm sure it's as clean as it can be, I call it good and move on.
Now, if you want to read more posts answering these same questions, go back to VR Christensen and follow her links to the other authors posting today. Below is an introduction to RaShelle Workman, who will be posting her own answers and sharing a little of what she's done to become such a successful author. Make sure you check out what she has to say next Monday, June 15th!
RaShelle Workman is an international bestselling author. She writes fractured fairytales with bite and young adult science fiction that's out of this world. RaShelle likes cherry pie, movies, family adventures, and chocolate. If you want to get on her good side, send chocolate. RaShelle's sold more than 500,000 copies of her books worldwide. Sleeping Roses, Exiled, Beguiled, and Dovetailed have foreign rights contracts with a Turkish publisher. Her books include: Sleeping Roses, Exiled, Beguiled, Dovetailed, Blood and Snow (1-12), The Cindy Chronicles, Vampire Lies (Blood and Snow Season 2) Short stories: Rose, Undercover Cindy Witch The Hunter's Tale Gabriel After the Kiss Zaren's Travels Visit www.rashelleworkman.com to join RaShelle's EXCLUSIVE mailing list and be entered to win a signed paperback copy of Blood and Snow volumes 1-4 (Special Edition). And be sure to like her Facebook page for all the latest news:https://www.facebook.com/rashelleworkman