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?

Weeeeeeeeell…good question.

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:

Web Images - Uncle Leonard
The End of Uncle Leonard
Web Images - Requiem
Requiem
Web Images - Rugaru
Rugaru
Web Images - Rough Cut
Rough Cut

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Roger JacksonRoger Jackson

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.

Jason ZwikerJason Zwiker

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.

Charlotte AshlockCharlotte Ashlock

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.

10 thoughts on “Dark Thoughts – My Writing Process

  1. Willow, I love to hear how your brain works and feel connected to you. Of course, being your mother, I can relate! Although, for myself, I am highly effected by what thoughts I focus on. If I think about painful events, angry situations, dark thoughts, I feel physical pain in my body. This doesn’t feel good! So, I try to redirect my thoughts onto things that are healing. In my mind, I strive to look for brighter event outcomes or remember times that were happy even if they were fleeting. Sometimes, it works, but doesn’t last until the issues are resolved. Resolving issues takes time and, for myself, action. Action is prompted by inspiration after much pondering. When I couple that with prayer, good things come. Songwriting is my medium. The rest of the process is much the same as yours.

  2. Hi Willow- I’m really enjoying reading all the contributions to this blog tour, such a fascinating insight into the minds of other writers! Really great contribution, and I think it says more about me that for all the interesting things you talk about, I’m left at the end just thinking, she wakes up at 5am to write???!!!

    Victoria

    1. Victoria,

      Thanks for reading it! I am so impressed by your entry as well. What a dedication to research! After having written my first book by “pantsing it,” I know I will probably never be doing it again. I just need more structure than that, although I wish I didn’t. I am hoping that for my rewrite of my book, I will have a much clearer idea of what I’m doing and where the story is going.

      As far as 5am is concerned…

      Yikes. That’s all I have to say.

      I will be so happy when this summer is over and I have a little more time to write. Then, I may be able to finally eliminate these dark circles under my eyes that are looking oh-so-permanent right now. Ah, yes. We all have sacrifices to make for our art. Mine just happens to be sanity and sleep. 🙂

      Thanks for your blog post, too. Very awesome!

  3. Great post, Willow. I forgot to go into the evaluation and editing parts of the writing process, but you do that really well here. Also, it’s interesting what you say about why you write horror — sharing your scars. You say it’s to teach and so others feel less alone. Doesn’t it also help us writers to heal? I think it must, because writing a story that touches on a painful moment or a fear does help to form closure on it, whether we’ve addressed it directly or not, or even with humor. Without closure, it can feel like a still-open wound, depending upon the severity. And although it may not provide much comfort to others in the form of horror, putting it out there and then hearing back *yes that’s horrible!* helps us to realize we’re not alone. It’s a bit like telling your problems to a stranger on a bus but in code. For when I write a horror story, there’s something in there that I find disturbing but good luck to anyone who’d try to discern what’s “me” versus what’s been ad-libbed. In the end, it’s not as much about whatever inspired it, for me, it’s mainly about spinning an entertaining yarn for a friend. Thanks for sharing your process.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read it, C.J.! And thank you for inviting me to evaluate it myself. I do think that most people write to pull out the poison from the past. Sometimes I like to rewrite my own story, with a character who has a different name and face. I deal with the things that I can’t change now, but that I wish I could.

      I also like what you say about exposing ourselves “in code.” That’s really what we’re doing, after all. The benefit of writing fiction is that the true (but often awful) things can be explained as fiction, so we are free to expose without outing ourselves. 🙂

  4. I get ideas in the shower and while driving, too. Once I wrote a poem in spit on the inside of my windshield while stuck in traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge. It was illegible by the time I got home.

    I bought a special pad of “paper” – think it’s some kind of vinyl – and write notes to myself in the shower. Also sketches, many of them based on images invoked by hair I stick to the shower wall until I get out and throw it away (I have long hair and hate clogged drains). Sounds gross but the drawings are fun.

    will post the link to paper pad on Twitter. Thanks for sharing your process.

    1. HAH! Alana, that’s hilarious! I’m surprised you could read it again later. But, a very good idea… I think the weirdest thing I’ve ever written an idea in is blood. That sounds really morbid, but there was a logical explanation: I didn’t have a pen.

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