Monthly Archives: February 2014

My Writing Process Tour

First, I’d like to thank Jocie McKade for allowing me this wonderful opportunity to participate in The Writing Process Blog Tour. You can check out other writer’s blogs and follow the tour on Facebook at #‎mywritingprocess‬ and on Twitter at #mywritingprocess.

I have to admit I was thrilled and nervous when asked to participate in The Writing Process Blog Tour. As I get further into this world as a published writer, I still get overwhelmed at how vast the world is and how small I feel in it. I’ve been writing for what feels like 30 years and have only been able to call myself published for the last 8 months. Comparing myself to other writers with multiple books feels awkward and undeserving. Yet, the further I advance in the publishing world, the more wonderful people I’m meeting, all whom remind me we all have to start somewhere. I still allow negative thoughts to take over in regards to simple things: Am I good enough to participate in a blog tour? Do I have something worthy to add at this point in my career? Do I even have a fan base to make a difference? Will anyone even read this? I suppose there may be a few. But it’s for the few that I write this and it’s for the few that I always express my gratitude for following my little world.

It should come as no surprise that I am currently working on a novel. As of yet, I haven’t settled on a title other than The Heiress. I was told by a writing prof that I should avoid one word titles. However, when no other title will do, you have to stick with what feels right. When I finish it, we’ll see if anything pops out to me. The story is about a young woman who gets caught in a baron’s war in England, only to discover she has important ties to Scotland and her lineage is tied to the Scottish War of Independence. That’s it in a nutshell. A nutshell that currently has 130,000 words behind it, 3 years of writing and a nutshell that is only halfway done. Sometimes I feel there will be no end. And then I remind myself that J.K. Rowling claims it took her 5 years to write the first Harry Potter. Perhaps I am on track after all. But I’d rather take my time than rush through with subpar writing. I want to present the world my best work in the end.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? That’s a really good question and I hope to have a logical answer in the future. I’m not really sure what genre it’s going to fit in right now. The heart of it is historical fiction. I’ve spent months and months (and years when you get down to it) pouring over history books – both scholarly and peer reviewed publications – to set my characters in the right years, situations, and political climate to make the plot as hole-free as possible. I’ve studied 13th century horse breeding, clothing, food, drink, marriage customs, castle maps, land configurations, language and church law to ensure the least amount of anachronisms. The story is history. Yet, at the same time, it is a love story. It’s about human connection, human nature and the psychological implications imprisonment and death has on the mind and shapes a person into who they are. Although the story has sex, it’s not sexually driven. I am using all of the craft I learned as a literary fiction writer to write something that can’t be pigeonholed as genre fiction. So, what do you call something like this? I have no idea. I have a feeling it will be too long for romance, and some scenes too sexy for historical. Where it will land, I’m not sure. I’m sure when I start presenting it to publishers, maybe I’ll have a better idea or be lucky to find someone who will guide me in the right direction.

In regards to why I write what I do? I suppose it has to be my love of history. The first book I ever read was the Little House on the Prairie books. History settings have always been simple. They are more focused on human interactions rather than the distractions we face in modern society. Characters are more in tune with each other than their electronic devices. Campfires and candlelit rooms create a more enticing ambiance than a hectic boardroom or a disco. When characters travel together, it’s for days, rather than a short plane or train trip. When they make promises, they are kept. And romance and love is an act to be savored, rather than rushed. Courtly love and chaperoned dating brings more anticipation and appreciation than a quick hookup at the club. I typically don’t even read contemporary. It bores me very quickly. But give me a book that presents me a world I’m not familiar with and I savor every word and interaction. That’s what I want to bring to readers. Something they haven’t seen before and a world that they can call their own because it’s one they don’t live in everyday.

As to how my writing process works? I want to answer with a loud guffaw! It changes every time. When I was in my teens, I wrote by hand because I didn’t have a computer, just a word processor (yes, I’m that old). In my twenties when I came up with an idea, I committed it to memory and wrote strictly on the computer. If I had an idea, I simply thought about it, what I wanted to accomplish with it and then wrote it. I had a 104,000 word fan fiction piece I did that way. In my late twenties when I decided to write a screenplay, I realized I need to be more organized. For the screenplay, I actually created a scene by scene outline, wrote a lot by hand because that’s the only way I could do it while working, then wrote my scenes with a screenwriter program. When I got into short story writing, I spent a couple days brainstorming the idea, made some notes and typically wrote it on a computer with very little handwriting. That process changed again when I started working on the novel. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: the novel is a beast. After 2 months of initial research I wrote an outline that was 98 pages long. In other words, it was 36,000 words. It was extremely detailed. Every scene, every chapter, a lot of dialogue and every plot twist, plot hole and transition was ironed out in painstaking detail. Some think that’s crazy, but that’s how my mind worked it at the time. Now all I have to do is write out my paragraphs, rework the dialogue and fill in on what I wanted the chapter to do. I add my craft to fill in what is needed. It’s still a long process, as I’m 3 years into it and only half way done. I have maybe an hour to write a day. Somedays I get a few pages, some days several. I am often asked by other writers about how to get started. I honestly don’t know what to say. I know what works for me. When I mention a 98 page outline, a shocked, blank expression usually follows. So, I tone it down and simply suggest a notebook to get your thoughts out. My second piece of advice: write every day. Whether it’s a word, a sentence, a paragraph or a chapter, do it every day. It’s the habit that you have to build. If you have the habit, the story will get written. I’m reminded of an interview of Jack White by Conan O’Brien regarding how does Jack write so many songs. His answer was simply: create every day. I took it to heart and printed up a little sign and stuck it to my computer. CREATE EVERY DAY. Some days will be great, some days will be shitty. But you have to do it to know the difference. If you have the patience, an end will come. Expect to take a while. See it through to the end. Every writer will say it’s hard. If the only compliant you have is that it’s too hard to do it, you’re not meant to be a writer.

I hope someone out there finds what I write is interesting and brings to them a little more knowledge about the writing process. It’s never easy, by a long shot. Writing is solitary and lonely. My friends know this. I have missed social gatherings and dates because I have to get something written. My hands and fingers hurt at the end of a particularly productive day of writing. My back and shoulders hurt because I forget proper posture when I’m sitting at my computer. My eyes hurt from staring at one word on my computer screen, pondering for 20 minutes if that’s the right word to make the sentence say what I’m intending. When I walk away from the computer at night, I feel pins and needles in my legs and feet because I’ve been sitting down for hours on end. It’s not easy. But nothing you have a true passion for ever is.


To wrap this up, I want to send another thanks to Jocie McKade for inviting me again. Until next time, cheers and Sláinte!

Wendy

Up next:
Ray Dean was born and raised in Hawaii. Working in live theater led her to the delights of living history and from there it was a slippery slope to creating her own worlds. Find her blog at www.raydean.net.

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New Year, New You (or, Is this thing on?)

It has been a hell of a year, and we’re only 34 days into it.

I tell people, ad nauseam, that my Falls are pretty busy and sometimes my writing is sacrificed here and there because of the different commitments I have.  It’s been that way for years.  So, how do I handle my already busy fall schedule that barely leaves me room to write my name, much less extra chapters on the already bigger than Ivanhoe manuscript I mapped out 3 years ago??  That’s right!  I get married and start a new job, all on the same day.   As if the signs of my masochistic nature weren’t apparent enough, let’s add more items on the Fall “to-do” list. NewPlainsReview

I am a glutton for punishment, in more ways than one.  I am a writer, so the fact that I’m also a procrastinator should not even be in question.  It’s a usual charming characteristic of most writers and true artists.  It’s a burden to be blessed with the imagination to craft either words, music, song or art, only to have your muse abandon you all together and block your creative juices at the most inopportune time.  There is no word for it; it just is.  And there’s no remedy for it.  It’s one of those things that you have to push through, by either writing yourself goals, notes or making commitments to yourself.  Having a network of other friends or artists  helps (it helps if they’re both) who support you (because although they say it to your face, not all truly support you, i.e. haters) and are willing to hold you accountable to your end goal: completed story, completed manuscript, completed [art].

Sometimes procrastination shows up in the unlikeliest skin.  What I discovered is when I have a lot on my larger than usual plate and already plagued with the burden of procrastination, I volunteer to take on more projects. More notably, I was asked to write a short story for an upcoming anthology benefiting cemetery restoration in New Orleans.  I jumped at the chance because not only was it an opportunity to get another writing credit and get my name out there again, but the anthology will be represented at ComiCon this year.  (insert Squee here!!!) Secondly, I will also appear in a book side by side with one of my dearest friends, Lisa (both artist and friend who truly supports me), who has always been there with a shoulder to cry on, a hot British guy to drool over, or a word or two of encouragement when I feel that ugly procrastination demon rear its ugly head.  And despite given a great opportunity to write alongside a friend, a guarantted publication and representation, I still procrastinated on the story.  For a 13K word story, it took me about 10 weeks to complete.  And I’m still not there yet.  Upcoming is still editing the fellow writers and re-editing my own.  However…… don’t for a minute get me wrong.  I would never complain.  This opportunity was a blessing and I am happy to have it.  Not only am I a published writer, but I became a writer with a deadline.  I love it!  It’s stressful in a sense, but I love it!

So, without further ado, here’s a recap of the last 4 months!

ArtnottouchThe fall brought about 4 unexpected appearances in both literary journals and anthologies.  First, and one that I’m most excited about, is the publication of “The One About The Pig and The Silk Purse” in The New Plains Review.  The reason I am thrilled about this one is because it’s one of the first stories I submitted when I took a creative writing class in college.  Although I had always been a writer, I didn’t know my university offered creative writing as a minor, much less a major.  After my professor read and graded the story, he asked to see me immediately to talk about changing my major.  I was pleasantly surprised and thunderstruck as well.  It was the first time I gave myself over to thoroughly entertaining the idea of writing in a professional sense.  Granted, it’s years later and I’m still trying to break through, but I would have never gotten where I am today if I didn’t take that class and allow myself to believe (with a newfound sense of conviction) that I am talented and that talent can (and should) be recognized.

 

BareMinimumSecondly, I saw the reprint of “Encore” in two anthologies: Bare Minimum and Art Is Not Meant To Be Touched.  Although it’s a reprint of a story first published in the summer 2013, I am thrilled at getting more exposure and potentially a bigger readership.  It might just be one story at a time, it’s a well written and well plotted story I am very proud of.

And lastly, a new literary journal, Livid Squid, picked up the story which I have considered for the last 3 years unpublishable.  “Games Best Played Alone” is about a schizophrenic who thinks he’s secretly Superman.  I say unpublishable because every mag/journal I’ve sent it to has either claimed they can get it past legal or they mistake it for fan fiction.  The fact that they mistake it for fan fiction makes me wonder if they even bothered to read it.  (I’ve written fan fiction in the past.  I know what fan fiction is.  And this was not it.)  Getting it past legal, I can understand that sentiment.  The schizophrenic in the story asks his shrink to call him “Clark”, and in return he refers to his shrink as “Bruce”. I can see the issues.  But I will always maintain it’s not a story about Superman.  It’s about a lonely man, suffering a mental disorder and off his medication.  It’s the first story I wrote in 2nd person narrative and the story in which I realized I had a talent for.  I’d like to thank Livid Squid for having faith in the story and picking it up (even if they can’t seem to get my name right)

LividSquid

As far as the novel goes, I will say I had a successful Wine & Write in October.  I completed 100 handwritten pages, which came out to about 22,000 words.  And wouldn’t you know it, just as I finished that small feat, procrastination reared its ugly head, and despite starting the cemetery anthology story, I haven’t come back and gotten it into my computer yet. Thus I have my next goal.  Spring is on it’s way, and with it, the birth of new chapters!

In the meantime, April will bring two more publications my way and I look forward to getting back to submitting my short stories again.  I still have about 5 more I’d like to have published over the next 4 months.  Afterward I plan on seeking out publishing my own anthology of the short stories.  It may or may not go, but at least I’m going to try it.  I’ve proven to myself time and time again in my short experience in the publishing world that I have no fear over a rejection letter any more.  It’s literally like water off a duck’s back now.

So until the next update, cheers and let’s keep the art flowing!

Sláinte!

Wendy C. Williford

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