My participation in the My Writing Process Blog Tour is thanks to Djerassi YA Workshop pal, Susan Crispell, who writes magical realism for both young adults and the adult market. Her book, Love and Cupcakes came out in January this year from Swoon Romance, and I had the pleasure of reading and critiquing the opening her very recently completed new YA novel, How to Take a Life. I loved what I read of her work, and am sure the new book is destined for big things. I also have to thank Susan for tagging me in this tour, because my blog has been sadly neglected since my return from Djerassi, and it’s high time I got back to it.

This particular blog tour is a really good way to find out about new authors and their books; you can follow the blog tour on Twitter via the #mywritingprocess hashtag.

And now for my answers to the questions… 

What are you working on?

Right now, not a whole lot. Don’t get me wrong, I have a work in progress, but I’ve been so insanely busy lately I haven’t had the time or headspace to get into it. Again. It’s so frustrating, especially when this book has been dogging me for over eighteen months now. It took less time than that to write all three of the others in the series combined. Ugh. But enough whining, let me tell you about it.

I’m working on the fourth and final book in The Eidolon Cycle series, a young adult paranormal series of interlinked standalone books. This last is an origins story; Belladonna explores the life (and death) of the antagonist in the three other books, Sabine. It has been a real challenge because it is set over a period of some sixty years, starting at the end of the nineteenth century. Not only does that involve a lot of research, but it has been particularly challenging to write in an authentic voice without taking it too far into esoteric colloquialisms that would potentially alienate my audience, who are readers of fast-paced work like The Hunger Games and the Mortal Instruments series.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I suppose the main difference with my work is the way the series fits together; each book stands alone as a complete novel, but each one enriches the others. Not only that, but the reading order will give the reader a different experience of the world and its characters, depending on where you start and finish. I don’t know of another series that works that way, though of course something like it could be out there. And although not unique as such, I’ve been told that my writing has a distinct fairytale quality that does set it apart from other young adult work. A lot of YA books, at least those with a female protagonist, is either fast-paced and action-oriented, or has a bubbly, vivacious style that has immediate associations with young women. My writing has elements of both of these at times, but I think the overall effect is more reflective and dreamlike, even when writing my most outgoing characters. The challenge, then, is to try to stay clear of whining—having a whiny protagonist seems to be one of the most heinous crimes a YA female character can commit. (My issues with that particular view require a whole other blog post, by the way.)

Why do I write what I do?

If I think back to the whys that were true when I started this series, I can repeat what I’ve always said: I wrote something I would want to read. That’s still true, but there are other, more important reasons to write that have crept in along the way. These books, though each has its own arc and theme, essentially explore the overall theme of being an invisible girl, both figuratively and literally. There have been countless studies done over the years about the role voiceless, powerless women play in fairytales (my literary passion), and I wanted to look at that idea from as many different angles as I could. All my characters long for something that is out of their reach, and all feel overlooked, or unimportant, or unworthy of their own desires in some way. This is a theme I think so many women, even the most self-assured, feel at some time or another, and it’s so important to give it a voice.

How does your writing process work?

At the moment, I can categorically say that it doesn’t. As anyone who knows me knows, I sign myself up for a lot of stuff, and at the moment it’s all piling on top of me and squeezing out my writing time. A writer who has other responsibilities, as most of us do, must fight for the time and space to write, and I haven’t been my book’s champion of late. With the first novel from my publishing imprint coming out later this month, and the second charity anthology from the Oslo Writers’ League coming out next month, both of which I am editing and typesetting, in amongst the paid work I do for my editing and design clients, writing feels like an indulgence I can’t afford. But now I see how two of my Djerassi friends have just completed their first drafts of the books they were working on at the retreat in February, I am overwhelmed with guilt at my neglect of the very thing I am living this “more flexible” life to accommodate. But that didn’t address the question very well. Let’s try again…

When I’m not complaining about my ridiculously full plate, I use these methods to complete my books:

  • I have always had the title for each book in my head from the start. Only once have I changed it.
  • I write with Scrivener, and I use it to set my word count goals for the book, and each session. This REALLY helps.
  • I aim to write each weekday mornings before I’ve done anything else, to avoid distraction. I write down my wordcount goal versus my actual wordcount on a calendar.
  • My books are written in a completely linear way, from start to finish. I am not able to, and am not comfortable with, the idea of skipping around. If a scene is frustrating me, I force my way through it, because I’ll be damned if I’ll let it get the better of me. Yeah, I’m kinda stubborn like that.
  • I get the story down as a priority, but often need to go back and flesh out the descriptions of scenes during my first edit.
  • Back when I used to write once a week, by the end of my first draft, the book was in something like a second-to-last-draft state. Minor tweaks only, no major editing required. Now that I’m writing more frequently (when I do actually get to write), I have less time to let ideas sink in and develop, so my first drafts are definitely first drafts; a lot more editing is needed on the second two than the first two.

Put simply, my writing process is think of a premise and title, work out roughly the beginning and end, write the book, edit the book.

That’s it. My writing process. And a bit of complaining thrown in for free.

Up next are three very different writers. Audrey Camp, one of the writer friends whom I most admire (and who also happens to be my movie soulmate), writes creative non-fiction, but we did NaNoWriMo together last year, during which time she worked on her first novel. Saroj Chumber is another member of OWL (the Oslo Writers’ League) who is a journalist by trade, but is working on short stories and a novel, and Deb E. Howell, one of the fabulous authors from Kristell Ink (sister imprint to my Tenebris Books), who is in the final self-editing phase of her second book.