Somehow I got tag-teamed. TT Thomas and Kathleen Wheeler both tagged me for this Blog Hop, My Writing Process. I suppose i could post this twice, but maybe just once will do. It’s not like the Blog Hop Nazis will chase me down and break my thumbs. So here goes…..
1)What am I working on?
You mean besides this computer jigsaw puzzle? (Addicted to those). Oh, writing. My current project is Pitfall (A Jurassic Romantic Adventure Dramedy). Just as most stories begin, I had the what-if : What if two lesbians who are very different, found themselves tossed back 150 million years in the past. What would happen?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much room there would be for being witty. And that always holds great appeal for me. But it’s been going along in fits and starts for several reasons. One, is that I’ve been dealing with some health issues that made it really hard for me to concentrate–Been impatiently waiting for my T3 thyroid meds….anyway, the old noggin was not up to par, and there are still some changes and settling in and domestica things going on, setting up housekeeping from scratch. And then i got a new Kindle Fire HDX–and well, most of you know how distracting that is. Then, it was computer and internet issues. Also, admittedly, maybe I’d intimidated myself a little by having a bestseller (Rain Falls). It’s a hard act to follow, even if it’s your own act. I might be suffering just a smidge of performance anxiety. I chose this project, in fact, because i thought it wouldn’t be intimidating. Just a fun little story about lesbians and dinosaurs. Right?
All along the way, this book I thought I’d be able to bang out fairly quickly, became more and more about research, rather than writing. The title gives you most of what you need to know about the type of book it is, but “fun” never precludes “authenticity” for me. I can always make things up, yes, but I prefer to base my stories on facts. So what I hoped would be a little reading and a few details and then a romp through primeval landscapes became real work. Dammit. Not only did I have to know about the Jurassic period, (sounds like some of my menstrual cycles), but I had to know what existed in the general area of New Zealand during that time. The flora, the fauna, and whether or not my story was set in winter or summer or anywhere in between, which turned out to make a big difference, because back then there were months of total darkness. That would be no good, having my characters stumbling around in the dark with the oviraptors and pterosaurs. And then I decided I didn’t want to use the usual T-Rex’s and velociraptors. I wanted to deal with some creatures that maybe Hollywood hasn’t used over and over. And I had to decide if it was before or after the continent of Gondwana separated from Pangaea, and New Zealand separated from Australia. And then landscape itself, and various facts about paleontology, archaeology, biodiversity, paleobotany….oh, and there’s the bit about time-travel. You get the picture. I kept coming up on questions about where the story COULD go, while still remaining factual in the foundation of the situation I had set up.
The other thing about this project is that I’m using it as an experiment on several levels. It occurred to me that there were few books about dinosaurs that didn’t have endless scholarly jargon, or purple cartoons on the front. There are only a handful of adult novels in that sub-sub (sub?) genre. And the most notorious, certainly, is Jurassic Park. But I always adored a story about dinosaurs, and also adore adventures, and love including some humor and romance in my work as well. So this was shaking up to be quite the new SPECIES of novel.
To complicate—I mean, liven things up a little more– I kept thinking about the book and the market and wondering if lesbians would even be interested in this story, and I still wish to write for mainstream sometimes. Next, I began to lament the way we are so segmented, categorized and divided as a society, that we have to have “lesbian” books and “straight” books instead of just “books.” I believe that ultimately, we are all just humans. We have the same loves and sorrows and motivations. That’s when I had the idea of writing two versions of Pitfall: One for the mainstream market, and one for the lesbian market.There really is very little difference between straight relationships and gay/lesbian ones. So this is also a way to test that hypothesis. If I write the same story, but change the gender of one character, thus changing the orientation, but keep everything else essentially the same–I wonder what would happen? So that’s what I’m doing with Pitfall. Same story, same characters, except for gender and orientation change in the mainstream version. I’m fascinated with the idea already. I haven’t heard of any other author doing this. (I also tried something unusual with my AKA Series in this way, by telling the same story in two books (Also Known as Syzygy and Also Known as Rising and Falling), from the POV of two different sets of people. That was really an interesting experiment, though incredibly hard work to keep all the details in mind, and not repeat things. I was rewarded with a stellar review of Syzygy which made it all worth it.
Anyway, I also have some other unique ideas about marketing that I’m not sure anyone else is doing either, and those will be implemented as I get closer to completion.
Now. Aren’t you sorry you asked?
2)How does my work differ from others in the same genre?
Aside from the differences I mention above, I believe Pitfall is unique because …I mean, LESBIANS and DINOSAURS. Hello. But it also straddles so many genres. It’s an adventure, a dramedy, a romance, a lesbian book, a mainstream book. It also seeks to provide just a little education here and there about things like functional illiteracy, the sciences, prehistory and maybe some other things I don’t know yet because it isn’t finished. I also remain conscious at all times not to fall into any pit(fall) of stereotyping. I like to use a brainstorming technique called “3 Assumptions” where I write down 3 assumptions about a character, or a plot, or anything really, and then I shift away from those assumptions. It allows me to come up with a fresh character, a (hopefully) unique story, and keeps me a little closer to unpredictability, which is always one of my goals. I’d like to surprise my reader by taking the road less traveled.
3)Why do I write what I do?
Because if I wrote what everyone else wrote, I’d have nothing new to offer. And it’s important for me to do that. I don’t want to be part of any crowd, ride on any bandwagon. I want to share my own voice and my own unique ability to tell a story that is a tale no one else can tell the same way. That’s what makes writing so exciting–knowing that no one will ever put those 26 letters together in so many ways, to tell such a unique story. It’s pretty amazing that we can do that with the same 26 letters.
4)How does my writing process work?
Lately, it hasn’t been working all that smoothly. It’s as if, at this late date in my writing career, I’m having to revamp that process. Things change, people change, our needs as writers must change with it. In the last few books, I’ve been writing a lot of Third Person Limited POV, and at first it seemed awkward and I didn’t like it, but now, it seems I can’t go back to third person omniscient. I like being able to focus in on each character by chapter rather than head-hop. As for the routine, I used to have one of those, but now, it’s like I’m searching for a new one. I’ve read a lot about going for a walk before writing to get things pumping, and I’m still working on whether or not that’s best. I’m half afraid I’ll wake up too much and be too far away from my subconscious/creative brain. We’ll see. But I do walk everyday, for the most part; it’s really important since I spend so much time in my desk chair in a usually dark room (glare on the screen from sunlight is an aggravation–if it weren’t for that, I’d swoosh back all the curtains and have the nice view outside. (Wondering if other writers have this issue). I’m now using soundtracks on Pandora and other instrumental music to inspire whichever scene I’m composing. It seems to really help, and makes the book feel more like a movie. I try to write as soon as I get up and make a cup of coffee, but if i dare open a browser to check Facebook, or my bank account, or anything else, i end up spending way too much time on that. The biggest issue right now seems to be me forgetting to eat until I’ve already missed two meals. So…it’s an ongoing process right now, trying to find my groove again with all the changes in my life recently.
As for the process on the page…it seems to change according to the story I’m writing. Sometimes I can write chronologically, straight through, but if there are lots of facts to consider then I have to find a way to weave all this together. And sometimes the story will go in unexpected directions and I have to go back and change some things. Often, I will have to jump ahead and jot down a scene idea or a snippet of dialogue I know I’ll want to use later, but not yet. So the piecemeal method can be a bit cumbersome, and I’ve had to come up with some inventive ways of tying things together more often than not, but I always try to make things as credible as possible. Sometimes there seems no better way to do it. I try to write to get the story down first, and then I go back and do several types of edits–like, one for diction, one for ambiance and environment, one for fact-checking, and contradictions and continuity. After I have a presentable draft of the whole thing, I hand it over to a beta-read-line-edit, then make those changes on another read-through, and then I finish up the formatting of front and back matter, cover design, and start the tedious process of uploading to various sites for publication, with Smashwords and Kindle being the first ones.
Probably more than any of you wanted to know, but there it is. And remember: dinosaurs and lesbians. How cool is that?