Dark Thoughts – My Writing Process
Wow. I’ve been doing a lot of connecting with cool people lately, and this week has been one of the best ever for trying out new writing experiences. Not only did I get nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by my friend Amy Good, but I was asked to participate in a blog hop by the wonderful C.J. Sellers. That means, you can link back through the “Writing Process” posts ad infinitum and learn how a bunch of different writers do what they do.
Who is C.J. Sellers?
Cynthia J. Sellers is a friend of mine who is a prolific horror writer and generally awesome person. On her website, you can find some of her short fiction (for FREE, I’ll have you know), as well as links to her longer fiction titles for purchase. She is one of several up-and-coming horror authors that I follow on Twitter, and I completely recommend following her for cool insight into the horror writing world.
And now. What you’ve all been waiting for.
My Writing Process
1) What am I working on?
I have been working on creating a collection of short stories and just getting f***ing published. ANYWHERE. It takes more time than I have, and I don’t subscribe to enough short fiction publications to know where I should be sending my stuff. This year, I have also outlined a musical, a trilogy of novels, and have 25 million partially written pieces of fiction laying around my house.
Actually, I AM working something substantive. I am writing a fantasy/science fiction novel with the working title, “Dark Waters.” It is completely written and clocks in at about 350 pages. It’s your typical adolescent-girl-saves-the-world-while-living-in-an-underwater-community novel. I have been working on it a long time, and I am hoping to have it ready for perusal by another human eye by my birthday this year – August 26th.
If you’re interested, here are a couple pieces you can read right now:
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’m not really a genre writer, although I call myself a horror/dark fiction writer. Still, I’m not really a literary writer, either. So, basically, I have stories that I like and I hope other people like, too. I think my style tends towards lots of metaphoric language and vibrant characters, but that’s not really distinguishing among good writers.
In my dark fiction, I am attracted towards cerebral, “creepy” horror rather than gore. I would rather tell you a story that makes you reevaluate your sanity than one that makes you want to skip dinner. Also, I like big ideas – time travel, alternate universes, magical realism, God, and forgiveness. Water plays a huge role in what I write, although I still don’t know why.
3) Why do I write what I do?
Like I said about the water thing: Sometimes I just don’t know. There are things that have scarred us in life – both good and bad. They form the framework of who we are and the things we have to teach. I see writing as a natural extension of my need to share what I have learned and experienced with as many people as will listen. I want to show you my scars and tell you my stories so that you can learn and laugh and feel less alone in the universe.
I also write because I love creation. I don’t think I have never met another writer who didn’t just have an instinctive need to create. Stories, art, music, dance, theater – there are just some people who have the ability to look into the void and see a thing that has never been conceived of before. I think I have been blessed with the gift to do that. And, I love the pleasure of making something exist where there was nothing before.
Finally, I seriously just love words. There is nothing more satisfying than putting the right words in the right order so that the person reading has no choice but to share a bit of mental real estate with you for a moment.
4) How does your writing process work?
I wake up at 5:00am so that I can write before my daughter wakes up. I used to do writing rituals of lighting incense, but I don’t really need to in order to get things going. Plus, I started to get a lot of hippies showing up in my office. It’s like they know…
To start writing, I usually just sit down at the computer and look inside. I do a lot of “opening up.” I ask myself, “What is the story that I want to tell?” Then, I usually get an image that I can write to. I also have a board of ideas on post-its, so that works, too. When I get stuck, I pull one down and try to make it not suck.
Often, I get ideas when I am showering or driving. That’s more tricky. There have been many times when I have jumped out of the shower and frantically sat down at my computer for 2 hours, just making sure that I get everything down. Driving is hard because I either have to capture my idea onto my phone by voice or by text. I usually keep a pad of paper handy, too, so I can write down anything that comes quickly.
Once a thing is written (or written until I run out of interest/energy), I save it and then forget about it. Then, when I need to get something finished, I pull out the oldest half-formed story I can find and clean it up. Editing is one of my favorite parts, and it allows me to really take a nice concept and make it mean more. I have a tendency to add in layers to my writing – symbolism, double meanings, arcane references – and editing is where this happens the best.
After I have edited a story 2-3 times, I have someone read it. Usually my husband, who basically has no concept of literary value. He just tells me what a normal person on the street might say about it. I re-edit for continuity and to answer questions that he had or tweak characters whose motivations weren’t strong enough. He reads it again. When he says he “gets it.” I move on to the next batch of readers.
The story then goes to the professionals. My writing friends, writing professors from college that I stay in contact with, my dad and brother – these guys know what’s going on. They tell me whether my writing is “too purple”, whether the pace is good, whether the characters are believable, or the dialogue is realistic. I edit again after each one, taking the best critiques and leaving the rest.
Finally, I publish to the blog. Once it’s published and I have promoted it, then the REAL editing starts. I finally see it through someone else’s eyes and catch all the stupid mistakes that I didn’t see before. Very effective for doing a final edit, especially if you’ve invited someone cool to look at it specifically.
That’s my writing process. Thanks for sharing a bit of mental real estate with me!
Who’s Up Next?
If you think this was interesting, you should see who is up for next week. All of these writers are wonderful and I’m so excited to learn more about how they do what they do.
A phenomenal storyteller and an incredible microfiction writer. He blogs stories, thoughts, interviews and more on his Ark Hive and is currently working on a novel. He has also been a featured writer on the Vampire Nomad blog. His work is dark, vivid, and surprising.
The gentleman writer from Charleston, South Carolina. He writes for CHARLIE, Charleston Living, and Consumers Digest. When he’s not writing for a living, he’s working on his own fiction and contributing fantastic microfiction to writing communities like FridayPhrases.com. His specialty is stunning imagery in darkened settings.
She is a talented writer and a professional digital producer and editor for Berrett-Koehler Publishers. She spends her non-writing time being nice to the environment and NerdFighting. Her specialty is science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism.