Monday, May 12, 2014

My Writing Process

I hadn't thought much about my writing process until Holli Moncrieff tagged me for this blog hop, and thought even less that other people would want to read about it. After all, I'm not a published author, but when I am one day, I can look back and see how I got there.

Someone once said it's the process; it's the journey that's more important than the destination. If you obsess over a goal, but don't enjoy one minute of getting there, it's a bitter road. You might not be happy with the outcome. If you have the right goal, the journey will be filled with things you also enjoy, like little gifts along the way. Sometimes you have to adjust your goal, change your destination, to have a more fulfilling journey.

I didn't recognize it before, but as I look back on my life, I'm realizing I've always picked the journey, not the destination. I choose paths for the experience. I take the long route on purpose. So, I really should stop beating myself up for not getting there sooner and should stop comparing my road to someone else's. If I'm taking a longer time than I thought I would on something (my novel, for instance), there must be a reason for it. I must need to learn something, do something, meet someone, for the end product to be right.

Believe me, I've learned this the hard way while working on my first novel. Having only written short stories before, I had a lot of learning to do. For one thing, I learned that novels take so much more time than short stories (especially to writers used to working on short stories). And revising one... don't even ask.

So, you know what I did? I not only wrote a novel, but I wrote the first novel in a series! Because, as I said before, I like the journey, I like a challenge, and, apparently, my right brain is a masochist.

This brings me to my writing process.

Trav rescuing the mermaid

What am I working on?

Multiple things.

- I have my YA Victorian novel to revise, and plenty of world-building and planning to do for the novels that come after it. This series begins in Boston in the late 1800s, so it involves plenty of research on that front, as well as research on Irish faeries for the steampunk faerieland I'm building for the second book.

The concept behind this story is the death of childhood and all the things society expects us to give up in order to be 'grown up'. My female MC doesn't want to do any such thing, and her defiance ends up being the catalyst for the story. I threw every childhood tale I love into a blender (Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, etc), sprinkled with a little Brother's Grimm and Tim Burton, to create this. I'm determined to see it on shelves one day, whether that be in the next two years or ten.

- I also do flash fiction, since I discovered how wonderful and brief it is while still encompassing a whole story. Of course, I can't just do one flash with a set of characters. I have to take those characters and make a series of flashes! Thus was born my intrepid Captain Trav and his young airship crew. This is my tribute to Doctor Who, told like a tall-tale and set in a steampunk universe. Did I mention, it's also humorous? (thank you, Terry Pratchett)

How does my work differ from others of the genre?

For one, it's illustrated. I put my MFA in Illustration to good use, pairing most of my stories with sketches, character designs, and spot illustrations.

I've been told I have a quality to my writing that's innocent, sincere, and lyrical - probably due to writing so much poetry throughout junior high and high school. (I've been known to rhyme in prose, because it's lovely and a lot of fun.) Though the genre be Victorian YA, middle-grade steampunk humor, or adult fantasy, I still manage to push my awe and fascination to the forefront, and through it the most unexpected things are painted gold. It's just the way I see things, or the way I'd prefer them to be in the worlds I create. I write the books I want to read. If it's fascinating, adventurous,  a little dark, and reminds me of being a kid again, I'm all over it.

Why do I write what I do?

When I was a kid, my favorite game in the world was make-believe. I would pretend I was so many different people in so many different settings. It's hard to give all that up as you get older, and simply be resigned to one life in one place as one person. I was a storyteller from a young age, expanding to my younger sister the stories my older sister told me. I would take her characters and make up whole new adventures for them.

It was in junior high that the historic moment came. I ran out of Babysitters Club books and I couldn't find anything to bridge the gap between them and adult fantasy. That was when I first started writing YA fantasy. I didn't even know what it was, but I was determined to fill that void and write the type of books I wanted to read. It all began with a story heavily inspired by the movie Labyrinth, with a dark Wish Master and an ungrateful teenage girl.

How does your writing process work?

This is the big question, isn't it? I have come to believe that my right brain (masochistic as it is) is a genius, and I'm not always aware of it until the last word has been written. It constantly amazes me how the bits and pieces of my story work into the larger whole. I don't always draw the connections until I look at it finished and they start leaping out.

My ideas come from something I've drawn or a concept I think is interesting and want to see if I can pull off. I guess you could say a lot of what I create is answering a challenge I've made to myself. Can I write an entire story in rhyming couplets? Yes! Can I create a character similar to the Doctor, without ripping off those so distinct qualities? Geronimo!

 I'm a meandering pantser. The story forms as I type it or write it out. The only planning I do is make notes to myself of things I want to include in the story or plot ideas I'd like to try out. I don't usually have to plan much for short stories, but a novel is a massive undertaking. My roundabout course has halted me more than once when I have to rethink an idea, redraw a character to get a better impression of him, rewrite a chapter to make it clearer. I also minor edit as I write, which I've been told is such a no-no.

I write my novels in chapter sets, a few at a time. I re-read for flow and to remind myself where I came from, then just plow on. I learn about my characters both by writing them and by drawing them. Sometimes drawings inspire stories, and vice versa. The MC of my current novel project was originally designed for a Whitewolf RP campaign.

When I schedule myself, I can finish a novel in a few months. When I don't (like now), I'm all over the place and write when the mood suits me. I'm also in the process of growing my illustration portfolio.

So, in answer to that question, my writing process is as scenic as my approach to life. Am I capable of taking the highway? Of course. It's just not as pretty a drive.


Rather than tagging other writers here, I'll direct your attention back to Holli's blog, where you can pick up the chain from the two other talented ladies she tagged.


  1. Thanks for participating, Donelle! It's a great post, and as always, I love the illustrations too. It's too bad you weren't able to find other writers, but it happens.

  2. Glad you liked it. Yes, it is, and rather than stress out about hunting people down, I just brought it full circle. I plan to visit some other participants soon.

  3. I can't do scheduling. My real life doesn't really allow it, given how flexible my working hours can be. I usually find I don't have to. If I'm really into what I'm writing, the words won't leave me alone.

    I think illustrating your own book is amazing and your artwork never fails to wow me. You're such a great talent!

  4. Thanks, Miss Cole! I understand about the scheduling. Sometimes I can only fit time in on certain days, but it's something.

  5. I'm so impressed that you do illustration, too! Do stories ever spin off from your drawings? Or do you tend to draw them after?

    I bet you could pair your illustrations with some flash fiction and wind up with something really unique. Then, self-publish it. I bet it would really take off!

    Anyway, I found you via Holli Moncrieff and hopped on over. She tagged me in this blog hop, too, but my server & internet have been down for the past 3 days (frustrating!!!), so I am just now making the rounds.

    Nice to meet you! :D

  6. Nice to meet you too, Tui! I'm glad you liked my illustrations. Yes, in fact that's what inspired the YA novel I'm working on. I drew both the MC and her shadowy companion, decided to put them together, and realized there was a story there. Sometimes I draw characters after I've decided on them when I need to flesh them out and get to know them better.

    That's a good idea. I have considered illustrating the flash and putting it somewhere. Self-pub might be the way to go, unless some unusual market for illustrated flash opens before then.

    Thanks! I look forward to reading your post!


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