My students have heard me say again and again how valuable critique partners are — how they’re an integral part of the ever-evolving writer. Not only do you gain a trusted individual who’ll give you honest feedback on your works-in-progress, you also get to watch their works blossom and, with the right amount of creative spark and elbow grease, get published or produced.
One of my critique partners, Jen Brooks, has a debut novel entitled In A World Just Right scheduled for release from Simon and Schuster BFYR in spring 2015. Jen is a former high school teacher and track and field coach. We’ve been critique partners for 10 years. She’s been blogging about her writing process and has asked me and our fellow critique partner, Rhonda Mason, to jump on the blog train and share our own processes.
So… Without further ado, I’ll answer Jen’s four questions…
My Writing Process
1) What am I working on?
Although I’m still recovering from my neck/hand injury which makes writing for more than a few hours a day pretty tough, that still leaves my brain time to play with a few different projects:
- A Stargate SG-1 short story for Fandeomonium’s fall anthology, Far Horizons
- A television pilot (can’t say much about this for obvious reasons, but yes– it’s SF and currently in development)
- A rewrite on an original novel
- One other project — a media tie-in that we’re hoping to announce very soon. Like ‘at Shore Leave’ soon.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Yeah – this is an odd question. I’d like to think that every creator’s work is different. As much as we have in common, we are all unique creatures with something to say. If I had to nail how I strive to be different than others in the SF genre (or any other genre for that matter), I would say it’s an effort on my part to create deep POV scenes where the action sounds similar to how that particular character talks/walks/chews gum. In screenwriting, which is about as omniscient as it gets, I still believe that at least one character is the focal point per scene and hence, I’ll use action description language in a way that pulls focus to that character. I guess the short phrase for what I try to do is ‘be immersive.’
3) Why do I write what I do?
Good question. Let me go back and ask my five-year-old self why she clambered up on her dad’s old desk and used his typewriter. It’s all her fault. Seriously, though, what seems to have driven my work overall is the need to try and make sense out of a world that becomes more complex, with more shades of gray, on a daily basis. This is probably why I prefer writing multiple POV. With all the complications going on in the world, it’s becoming increasingly easy to see all those different shades, and yet… Somewhere underneath them all has got to be a few moral absolutes… Right? See, I’m wondering the same thing. Hence the need to write and try & discover why.
4) How does my individual writing process work?
You’d think it would be dependent on the medium and the project, but it always starts the same for me: A theme or concept bubbles up. I then need to figure out how best to show that theme which means — for me — what kind of characters do I need to put through the ringer so the reader and/or audience can connect. Until I have the characters figured out, I can’t move on to the actual plot because the characters define for me what’s needed to move THEIR stories forward.
Once I’ve found my ‘cast,’ I become an outlining fool. I’ll start small, developing the five key moments in the plot including Ordinary World, New Direction, Change in Plans, Blackest Moment, Climax/Resolution. Then, I’ll look for ways to ensure the characters’ external and internal throughlines will be served by those moments.
Then it’s all about the index cards, more outlining, and planning as much as I possibly can. Yeah, I do tend to over-plan, but the benefit is that once I start writing, I feel safe about allowing for spontaneity because I always know where the story needs to go. If the journey along the way takes a few small detours, or stops for a moment to ‘smell the roses,’ it’s fine — as long as it serves the story.
I’ve pantsed a few times with mixed results. While I haven’t done anything with those works, who knows? If I win the lottery and can buy my way into a machine that stops time (in other words, if I can make each day longer), I’ll go back and play with those pantsing efforts. Until then, I’ll keep planning… writing… and planning more.
They say no good deed goes unpunished. Happily, I have a few fellow writers who’ll be picking up the gauntlet next week to share their processes with you. I’m a big fan of their works and I think you will be, too:
Albert Wendland is Co-Director of the MFA in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University. His SF novel, The Man Who Loved Alien Landscapes, a starred pick-of-the-week by Publisher’s Weekly, was just released last month by Dog Star Books.
K. Ceres Wright graduated from Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction Program. Her novel, Cog, was her thesis, and was published by Dog Star Books in 2013. She likes sunsets and long naps on the beach.