Thanks to Mahrie Reid, author of Sheldon Harris Came Home Dead, for inviting me on this blog hop! I’ll be answering four not-so-easy questions about how I write — and I’ve invited three other writers to tell us about their writing process next week.
But first, it’s all about me!
What am I working on right now?
I’m working on the second draft of the second book in my Seeing the Light series, as I wait for my publisher to send me her notes on the first book in the series. (It’s going to be published in late autumn, 2014, so it’s exciting, all the way around!) The first draft of this novel was written way back in 2010, and I’ve learned a ton in that time, so the rewrite is going a little more slowly than I like, but the final product will be excellent! I can feel it!
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
First difference. My stories are almost always based in Edmonton, Alberta, and Seeing the Light is no different. In fact, I used the Arlington Apartment as the basis for the Palais Office Building, where most of the action happens in the first half of the book. (The Arlington was the first apartment building built in Edmonton.) I walked past that building every day for years, and loved the look of it. So — I had to write it into a story!
And the second difference. Seeing the Light is a paranormal mystery (with hints o’ romance!) that is written from two different first person points of view. One is the main character, Marie Jenner, who is helping a spirit move on. The other is the spirit. In the first book, the spirit is Farley Hewitt, a 57 year old handy man who died in the basement of the office building a couple of weeks before Marie started working there.
Why do I write what I do?
Ghosts and other things that go bump in the night used to terrify me when I was growing up, to the point that I couldn’t watch scary movies, or read a scary book. Then I realized I was missing out on some terrific stories, so I slowly dipped my toe in, starting with the movie “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” I watched it on television, with the sound turned way down, and all the lights in the house turned on! This is how I learned to love the dark.
Family dynamics also intrigue and sometimes terrify me. Everyone who is involved with a family — you understand how this can happen.
So — I combine them, and see where the stories take me. Here’s the thing, though. I don’t often write horror, or drama. I take the dark, and the drama, and distill it until it’s pretty darned funny. Believe it or not!
How does my writing process work?
Oh, this is a tough one. Generally, when I get the germ of an idea, I start off with the best of intentions. I start a notebook for it, intending to write out a full outline, plus character sketches, plus do all the research needed — but this usually doesn’t happen! Somewhere around page two of the notebook, I start writing a scene, and then the novel pours out of that… When that happens, I transfer to my computer, figure out the ending, and go for it!
My characters usually develop in the manuscript, so there’s a fair bit of rewriting as I learn about them. However, I always know the end of the story — so I always know where to aim.
I finish the first draft, and let it sit for a while. (For a novel, that can be up to a year. Sometimes longer.) Then I go back, and do draft two. This is where I clean up any big plot issues. I like to call it my “what was I thinking” edit. Then I go to the third draft — cleaning up smaller stuff, and formatting. This is usually where I end up killing a lot of my darlings. (My darlings are sections that I LOVE, but that don’t belong in the manuscript.) After this, I send it out to a couple of people I trust for their feedback. THEN, I finish.
Finishing includes fixing rough spots my readers caught, cleaning out overused words and cliches, and fixing any typos or grammatical problems. Plus, of course, making absolutely certain that I’m using the correct spelling. (I’m Canadian, so there are many words that I need to change if I’m sending to an American publisher.)
I try to write every day — even if it’s only a little — because I find if I miss a day or two, it can magically turn into a week. Or a month! I don’t want to go down that road, so I keep myself on track by doing something, every day.
Now that you know everything about me and the way I write, it’s time for me introduce you to the next group of writers who have agreed to tell us about their writing processes…
Marie Bilodeau recently launched the third book in her award-winning space opera Destiny series (Destiny’s Blood, Destiny’s Fall and Destiny’s War). She is also the author of the Heirs of a Broken Land, a fantasy trilogy described as “fresh and exciting” by Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo award-winning author of WAKE. Her short stories have appeared in several magazines and anthologies and have also been nominated twice for the Aurora Awards. Marie is also a professional storyteller, telling adaptations of fairy tales and myths, as well as original stories of her own creation. She’s a passionate advocate for paper airplane contests, peach desserts and caffeine consumption.
Facebook: Marie Bilodeau
Susan MacGregor an editor with On Spec Magazine and anthologies “Tesseracts Fifteen: A Case of Quite Curious Tales” (Edge Books) and “Divine Realms” (Ravenstone Press). She has had her short fiction published in a number of anthologies and magazines. She is re-releasing her non-fiction writer primer, ‘The ABC’s of How NOT to Write Speculative Fiction’ on her blog. She recently signed with Five Rivers Publishing for her ‘Tattooed Witch’ trilogy. The first book, ‘The Tattooed Witch’ was released last July, 2013. The second book, ‘The Tattooed Seer’, sits with her editor at Five Rivers, awaiting her revision suggestions. She is currently writing ‘The Tattooed Rose’ the third book in the series. All three books are hybrid historical fantasies (with strong romantic elements) set in medieval Spain around 1550, during the height of the Inquisition and colonial expansion into the New World.
Facebook: Susan MacGregor
First published in non-fiction, then short fiction, then novellas. Now working on e-book adventures, Steampunk stories & novels. Billie lives with her husband, daughter, granddaughter, a large family of dust bunnies and 2 cats. Now and then they hold her feet to the fire and the rest of her close to the ground, where all good stories begin.
She is known as Weed Woman by participants of her Medicinal Plants & the Edible Wild workshops; Dendrite Diva by participants in her creativity courses and River Rat by watershed stewards.
Like many writers she’s had more jobs than she’s owned shoes (she’s fond of shoes), but the single thread connecting all of her exploits is her irrepressible sense of story.
Former Journalist – Harrowsmith magazine, Western Producer People magazine and weekly newspapers in Alberta and British Columbia
Facebook: Billie Milholland
Check Marie Bilodeau and Billie Millholland’s website for their blogs next week. Susan McGregor will post at the end of April.
Thanks for dropping by! Hope I see you again, real soon!