First, I’d like to thank Sandra Nachlinger http://sandranachlinger.blogspot.com/2014/01/writing-process-blog-hop.html for inviting me to participate in this adventure. I’ve read her first book I.O.U. Sex and found it charming. I’ve particularly appreciated her work to bring the trials and tribulations of the older heroine to print.
Today’s discussion is on the writing process. I am currently working on several projects. For National Novel Writing Month I wrote a novel set in Eastern Washington. My heroine is a library clerk in her early forties. The story starts when her husband of nearly twenty years kicks her out of their home so he can live there with his pregnant girlfriend. While Janette is busy adjusting to all the ramifications of her life circumstances, a mystery involving the local school, drug dealing, embezzlement and kidnapping unfolds with the clues being hidden somewhere in the library archives room.
My second project is set in Ireland. This was an assignment requiring hours of research. It’s stalled because my adolescent heroine, Kathy is being an adolescent and refusing to tell me her secrets. If she doesn’t start talking soon, I’m going to give her a crush on the senior class president and get the whole story moving.
The third project is a love story comprising part of my series about Jake Jaconovich. This project is comprised of the letters Jake and Celia wrote to each other before they met. I’m sorting through a plethora of material to determine which letters are important and which are trivial.
This blog assignment asks the question about how my work differs from other works in my genre. My English 108 professor would insist that the readers must answer that question for themselves, but I will attempt to give you my interpretation of what is different about my writing. First I write general fiction so I am not restricted to any formula. My characters are ordinary people who live ordinary lives until extraordinary circumstances propel them to become exceptional.
My heroes and heroines are imperfect people from all walks of life. They range in age from children to grandparents and may include cats, dogs, horses or cattle. I usually include characters with disabilities in a story but do not allow their disability to define them.
Why do I write about ordinary people instead of invincible, beautiful and wealthy heroes and heroines? By education, I’m a social psychologist. I’ve been an advocate for people with disabilities for more years than I’ll confess to. I have been privileged to witness the power of ordinary people going about the business of living day to day. I’ve met and interviewed thousands of people living in impossible conditions. I’ve watched them struggle, persevere, and eventually triumph over circumstances even when they have to bring about change in their communities, schools, medical systems and government in order to triumph. I want to tell their stories of hope.
The writing process is different for each author. I occasionally outline every stage of a proposed work. I’ve learned to make story boards and write background for each character. This methodical approach works for many authors. I try. When I get an idea for a character in my head I write an outline. For my story about Janette, I even wrote a list of chapter headings to tell me what happens in every chapter. Then I sat down at the keyboard and Janette began to tell me her story. Why did I waste time and energy on an outline and chapter headings? I didn’t know Janette’s story yet. She totally surprised me with how serious her troubles really were. I thought I’d be writing about how she met Benny—a romance story. I ended up writing a much more frightening and compelling story about small town crime mixed with the trauma of losing one’s mate of almost twenty years. Did my outline help? Maybe as background that never made it into the story.
I look forward to hearing from three more authors next week. Their stories and styles are different from mine, but I hope they will give the reader insight into the magical process of making sense of our world through the art of writing.
1) Dan O’Brien, founder and editor-in-chief of Amalgam Publishing, has written 15 novels (all before the age of 30) including the bestselling Bitten, which was featured on Conversations Book Club’s Top 100 novels of 2012. Before starting Amalgam, he was the senior editor and marketing director for an international magazine. In addition, he has spent over a decade in the publishing industry as a freelance editor. You can learn more about his literary and publishing consulting business by visiting his website at: www.amalgamconsulting.com. Contact him today to order copies of the book or have them stocked at your local bookstore. He can he reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) March Twisdale.
March Twisdale may live on a small island, but her mind is on the world. A homeschooling parent, an activist, novelist, radio show host, and columnist, March's energy is always directed toward individual and community empowerment. Hope is a verb that arises from the belief that, "Yes, I can made a positive difference in the world." This, ultimately, is where March's work takes us.
3) Melissa McCann has a MA in creative writing and taught English at Eastern Washington State University.
Melissa has been publishing her poetry, short stories and novels for more years than she admits. Her latest is Symbiont, a sic-fi novel set in post The-Big-Earthquake Seattle. She currently lives on Vashon Island where she raises poultry and pug/chihuahua mix doggies. For a preview of her books visit her web site at http://www.melissalmccann.com/books.html.
Find out her writing tips and secrets on her blog Feb. 3: http://www.melissalmccann.com/blog.html