Writing Process Blog Hop

Suzanne Stengl: On The Way To A WeddingA big thank you to Suzanne Stengl for inviting me on this “Writing Process Blog Hop”. Suzanne writes cozy mysteries and heartwarming romance. When she needs a break from her keyboard, she swims lengths at the Y, skis at Sunshine Village and hikes in the Rockies. She’s also a pretty good line dancer . . . and a very poor euchre player.

You can read about Suzanne’s writing process here.

The idea of this blog hop is

  • to answer four questions, and then
  • choose 2 or 3 authors to do the same.

So here are the questions, and my answers:

1) What am I working on right now?

I’m working on my very first novel, a contemporary romance. She’s a socially oblivious geeky archivist and he’s an accidental crown prince. There’s a castle, and a winery, and a gorgeous library. It’s a stand-alone book; I wasn’t brave enough to take on a series for my first time out!

I’ve got a bunch of others at the concept stage, though, including a couple of series. There are so many stories in my head waiting for their time to come out and play!

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

All of my heroines seem to be geeks of some sort. Or nerds, depending on how you define the terms. Their geekdom may not be computer-based, but they can get so caught up in their career, their field, their personal area of passionate interest that they are a little out of touch with the world around them – especially the social world. Strong women, but they stand a little aside from the mainstream sometimes.

Erm. Slightly more autobiographical than I had intended, I think.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Because those stories have to get out to make room for more? Oh, wait, that’s why I write at all.

Why do I write romance? I love a happy ending. I am the eternal optimist. I see the glass half full and think, oh boy, fill ‘er up again!

For me, fiction with a strong romantic component shines the light of hope into life. I HAVE a good life, one I want to celebrate, but not everyone does. If something I write can help someone escape for a bit, find something to believe in or hang onto, well, then, what’s better than that?

4) How does my writing process work?

Hah. It’s taken me over a year of working on this first draft to figure that out. Sort of. At least for now.

When I write non-fiction, I start with a detailed outline. I might add to it as I write the work, especially if it’s long and complex, but I build the structure first and fill in the content pockets. I can write for hours and hours like that. In fact I have to set timers so I remember to surface for meals.

Imagine my surprise when my fiction didn’t progress the same way. For this first work, I knew the major characters and the big story arc before I started. I worked on the backstory timeline before I jumped into the work itself. (Timelines are important to me; I am a very linear thinker!)

But I have found that I can’t outline too deeply. Writing fiction is more about discovery and documentation for me than about process and production. I get ideas for the next scene and maybe one or two after that, but that’s as far in advance as I can plan. I tried doing a sort of big concept outline, just jotting down a major idea for all of the scenes, and ended up writing myself into a dead end. That was NOT where my characters wanted to go!

I also can’t tie myself to a fixed word count daily. When I tried that for about a week I ended up with almost 3000 words that really stunk, even by my first draft standards. I was far more focused on the word count than on the story, and the writing showed it. It was choppy and disjointed. I ended up scrapping just about all of that and rewriting the chapter.

So I need to write in logical chunks: a scene, or part of a scene; an exchange of dialogue; a description of a location or an activity. Word count doesn’t matter so much as completing the thought.

I can see the value in being a planner over a pantser, especially for a romantic suspense where you have to get the mystery bits in as carefully as the romantic bits, or for a series where the multiple stories intertwine. Same with a daily word count: writing to a schedule is the way to meet deadlines. Right now with my first WIP I have the luxury of no deadlines, so I can write to my own pace.

Which is a good thing, as life can get in the way sometimes. I am self-employed, so I have client work and business work to do most every day. I lost my Mom in January, and as the oldest of my siblings and the executrix of the will I’ve had a bunch of legal stuff to work through. And then there’s the son who had emergency surgery last week… Even when they don’t live with you anymore, you still get into Mom Mode and focus on them!

My characters are scolding me at the moment for neglecting them last week. So please excuse me; apparently I need to go and listen to what they have to say!

Before I do, let me introduce you to my writer friend who will tell you about her writing process:

Weaving a Woman's LifePaula Chaffee Scardamalia, dream consultant for PEOPLE Country Magazine, is a book and creativity coach, and dream and tarot intuitive. Since 1999, Paula’s taught writers how to use intuitive tools like dreams and the tarot to tap into their creative flow.  She’s taught at small private workshops on the East Coast, and at both national and regional Romance Writers of America conferences and meetings, and at the 2014 San Diego University Writers Conference. She leads intimate writing and creativity retreats both in the US and abroad. Paula publishes a weekly e-newsletter on creativity, dreams, tarot and the inspired life, and is the award-winning author of Weaving a Woman’s Life: Spiritual Lessons from the Loom.

In addition to coaching me while I write my novel, she’s in the midst of writing her own. Paula will talk about her writing process on her blog on Thursday, April 10.

Oh, and if you liked reading this, why not sign up for my email newsletter? (See the box up there a ways on the right?) I promise I won’t overwhelm your inbox!

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