A Muse Bouche Review: March 2020
For our fellow authors,
This month we’ve taken time out to focus on our fellow writers, and our own journeys!
We hope you find this peek being our curtains salacious and enticing!
Our crew has been hard at work looking into our own abysses – the personal wells from which we fill that weird and wonderful term: Writing Process. So esoteric, and yet grounded in the hours of blood, tears, and papercuts we endure to refine not just our process, but our craft, and our final product. In truth, our process is what we endure to bring our work to our readers.
While none of us will pretend to have the answers, we are willing to share the answers that we have found work for us, and we hope, will help you find your own peace in writing, editing, and help you avoid that desire to stab yourself with that fountain pen.
We also welcome a new contributor: Jessa Kaina to our fold!
The A Muse Bouche Review team
Feature: The One True Path (E.G. Deaile) Survey Results
My Author (Jessa Kaina) Literary Introspection
Why You Shouldn’t Ask Me (Packy Smith) Essay
A Bit of Madness (Alexandra Gardner) Alex’s Process
What you Know (D.W. Hitz) Fiction
Finding Your Writing Process (Crystal Kirkham) Writing Advice
A Short History of the Writing Process (Paul Grealish) Satire
Taking a Longer View (Renée Gendron) Writing Advice
The One True Path
by: E.G. Deaile (T: egdeaile_writer)
For this month, I designed a survey in order to capture our feelings about our chosen publishing paths. This is always a hot twitter topic, and I wanted to get a data driven view of the debate.
So here’s the breakdown from your AMB Review Authors:
43% said our goal was money.
29% said writing was personal
14% each for Experience or Feedback
Preferred Publishing Path:
Felt supported by family:
General Impressions about Publishing Path:
Based on the comments received, while traditional publishing remained a goal for most of us, the frustrations around it are real. Everything from gate keeping to genre restrictions pile up to make us both seek and rail against traditional paths.
But that desire to see our books and ourselves succeed in that traditional market is not tamped by these restrictions.
On the other hand, the Indie path really shone when it came to the desire to maintain control of our projects. However, the idea of bearing the weight of the entire process from editing to layouts, and marketing with little to no support really spoke to the desire for the traditional path. An indie author must not just be a writer, but also a project manager.
A comment about small press really hit things home where it may be the ideal: broad potential with support and broad control over the project.
My takeaway is that we all write for our own reasons. Our writing processes differ because we differ. I would like to see us bicker less about our path and our goals and focus more on supporting each other. This is about our stories, our community, and our ability to support each other. With only 71% of our own authors feeling supported, remember that the online writing community may be the only support some of us have.
We should neither hide our opinions nor tear each other down. We can help, inform, and share without giving away the “secret sauce” that we’re worried makes our own work special. Here’s hoping I see you out there, and get the chance to hear about your work and your dreams.
Now that you’ve seen our compiled results, please take the survey along with us and review the results.
Complete the Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YBQYWS7
by: Jessa Kaina (T: @JessaKaina)
I watched her for days, then months. Now almost a year.
I was born at the first sounding of the concept inside her head. I knew she loved me from the beginning, she proved it by staying.
We sized each other up for a while. Me getting to know her, she trying to understand me. Her faith wavered at each step.
We weren’t in partnership at that time. It was too early to give our relationship a name. There was just a similar intention flowing through both of us. An idea of the creation we wanted to make and the desire to find a way to do it.
She was a planner so I let her lift the weight. She was confident. In the beginning. It was a slow struggle after that.
I know she tried to understand me but most of the time our collaboration was forced. She thought working a little bit harder or a little bit longer would allow us to work better as a team. So she did and made the extra effort. It didn’t work.
So she chose to give up on me. She had been struggling for a time, running in circles, because there were some hard truths she didn’t want to face. I can understand pain. More than that I understood her because I cared about her.
It hurt that she didn’t say goodbye. She just left.
I sat alone for a couple days, wondering if I should call her back. If I should have put up a fight or if I let her go too soon.
But she didn’t look back.
I decided my time had come and gone. While she had been part of my whole experience, I was, and would only be, one part of hers.
The miracle was that she came back.
It was almost more a surprise for her than it was for me. I had made peace that our relationship was not meant to last. But she came, as she had left. Without much noise.
We spent the next several weeks together. Then months. It reminded me of when we first met. She needed her time apart and so did I, but she always came back. And leaving made us both realize that we could trust one another. Because no matter how far we got separated, we would find our way back.
It was exciting every time she told someone about me. She would describe me, not the way that she had dreamed I would grow up to be, but exactly as I was. I rejoiced when the people she told seemed as happy to meet me as she was.
I’m still not grown yet or ready to be introduced in public.
One day I will be.
And that day I’ll make her proud. She worked on me for a long time, working on herself in the process. I’ll be able to share that love she used to nurture me.
I won’t even need to tell people about our relationship. It’ll be written on my face. My author.
This is Why You Shouldn’t Ask Me for Writing Advice
by: Packy Smith (@packysmith)
“The only true wisdom in writing is knowing you know nothing” – Packy, by way of Socrates.
That’s my message. My truth about writing. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk. Begone.
Apropos of nothing, I’m the last person you should be coming to for writing/publishing advice. I’m not published (for good reason) and I’m nowhere near ready to be published (again, for good reason). I’ve also written 3 complete novels, each that I love dearly in the same way that a mother loves their unfortunately homely baby. I know they are awful but they are a weirdly appealing awful born of my beautiful imagination and I love them. The truth of the matter is simple: my writing is still not ready for prime time… and that’s OK. It’s kinda funny when I stop and think about it. I’ve been writing for well over a decade, and I’m still desperately clawing my way (at a snail’s pace, I might add) towards writing a single novel length story worth publishing.
I could trash my pitiful writing, in the most loving ways, all day. Self depreciation is one of my super powers. I am, however; also really good at being a beacon of positivity to everyone around me. Consider it a secondary super power that exerts itself specifically to brighten your day when you least expect it. So believe me when I say, “you’ve got this. You are a skilled writer. You will succeed in all of your writing endeavors… so long as you start learning to slow your publishing aspiration roll and accept criticism.”
There. I said it. Accept criticism. That’s it. That’s the tweet, except this isn’t Twitter and as I’ve said this writing rant comes apropos of nothing.
Seriously, you should be letting critique partners, beta readers, friends, family, pets, or whomever you trust read your writing. Trust is the key. It needs to be somebody that you trust to give you an honest unflinching opinion about your written words. Someone who doesn’t pull punches. Someone who not only knows specific aspects of your story or characters suck but will give you quantifiable reasons to support their opinion. These people will break your fragile writer’s heart, but will ultimately make you a better writer… but only if you learn to accept their criticisms and adapt your writing accordingly. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. By the same rationale, you can’t write a novel without at least 42 revised drafts.
There will come a time, usually at the exact moment when you believe that you’ve written your infallible Magnum Opus, that you will receive a scathing critique of said “perfect” novel. Take the critique to heart, even if you don’t believe all of the criticisms are fair or valid. Criticism can be very subjective, so don’t be afraid to challenge a critique if you believe the reader is wrong. Remember, whether right or wrong, every criticism comes from somewhere. If you can understand where the criticism is coming from, why the reader formed that specific opinion, then you can adapt your writing to address the criticism and create a stronger work of fiction. That is my challenge to you. Find where the criticism is coming from and grow as a writer while addressing it. Don’t go overboard. Rewriting to address criticism doesn’t mean that you have to rewrite your whole novel, but it might mean that you need to rethink a specific thing about your story (i.e. character growth, character motivation, plot holes, etc.). Think the criticism all the way through and understand it fundamentally, because if someone you trust finds something worth being that vocally critical about, I guarantee a general audience will find all sorts of fascinating reasons to complain about your writing. Don’t be in a huge rush just to publish your story. Be mindful of your writing and take the necessary time and care to publish the best possible story you can.
Or not. You don’t have to listen to me. I’m just some jag that’s been writing for over a decade (with 3 completed novels to boot) and still hasn’t published a single book. Perhaps over time my writing will do that magical thing that the cool gamer kids always talk about and “git gud.” Maybe it won’t. Either way, I’ll keep working on it and maybe one day you’ll see a novel by Packy Smith in your local book store (if book stores still exist by then) or preferred electronic device screen.
Wow. That got weird and kinda sad near the end, didn’t it? That’s not like me at all. I said I was a beacon of positivity, and I totally am, so I will leave you with this quote:
“Writing is a serious mental disease.” – Packy, by way of Plato.
Hold up. That’s not the one I was thinking of. Well it was but this is not the right time for it. Gimme a second… it’ll come to me…
“Never discourage a writer who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.” – Packy, also by way of Plato… now with 100% more positive message. Happy rewriting everyone.
A Bit of Madness
by: Alexandra Gardner (T: @agardner_author)
Let me start by saying that, just because it works for me, my process might not work for you. In fact, other people’s processes might not work for you, either. The only piece of advice I can give anyone about their own writing is to give it the attention it deserves. It doesn’t have to be as insanely in-depth as mine, but it also shouldn’t be as shallow as one draft. It’s simply not enough, no matter how good you are. It. Will. Show.
My writing process is, quite frankly, insane.
I start by drafting. I don’t outline. I can’t outline–not because I’m not capable of doing it. In fact, I’ve outlined many projects. The truth of the matter is, my characters take over. I don’t have a say in what they do or say. They live inside my fingers, and as soon as I start typing, my mind and body are theirs.
A recent example of this happened while drafting my blog posts for Owen in anticipation of my second book, Hunter’s Mark, releasing March 20, 2020. I sat down with a blank document and literally nothing in mind except the concept “he runs into X character in this one,” and then my fingers flew over the keys as he wrote his story. They’re actually some of the pieces I’m currently astonished by with how in-depth they are versus what I thought they would be. But that’s because I didn’t write them; Owen did. Another example of this was while drafting my fifth book in the series, long past characters ignoring EVERYTHING in my outline for the last two books, minus hitting the rising action, climax, and resolution. I literally sobbed as two characters broke up. I didn’t plan for that and was upset but also proud of my character for sticking up for himself and walking away from a toxic situation.
But back to the point, I don’t outline because my characters don’t care about my plans. Instead, I draft from start to finish. I can’t draft out of order to save my life, no matter how much my fingers are itching to write a certain scene. If I write it, the number of edits that might come about thanks to my asshole characters doing their own thing would be beyond belief. The one time I tried to write out of order, I ended up having to rewrite most of the dialogue around a situation because I didn’t know the two characters had had a more substantial meeting than I originally planned.
The first draft is word-vomit, as much as I can get on the page as the content pours from my fingers. I can see everything in my mind, from facial expressions to the room around them and action as they interact, so if those don’t make it onto the page the first time around, that’s fine. It’s the scenario or the emotion and dialogue that matters.
Once the first draft is done, I let it sit. This could be a week or a month, it could be six, it might even be a year. It honestly depends on how my obsession jumps from one project to the next, leaving me writing the next novel in the series or even a new novel in the same universe. Then those novels sit while I come back to the first.
This is where the insanity begins.
I read the first draft, dubbed “Version 1,” from start to finish, catching grammar, fleshing out world-building, deleting repetition, adjusting and often expanding the dialogue, adding internal thoughts or deleting the ones that are excessive or divert from the tone, and even adding full chapters between the existing ones where needed. Everything that was in my mind that didn’t make it onto the page is added as best as possible. Since I edit with Track Changes turned on in Word, this leaves my document looking like it’s bleeding red, from new additions to deletions lining the side of the page.
Once I finish reading Version 1, I save it, as is, with all those bleeding red edits, and then save it as “Version 2” before clicking “Accept All Changes.” I now have a fully edited document with all the changes in red in Version 1 and the fresh document with those changes made in Version 2. This is so I can reference what changed if I need to, and while not often, I have.
Guess what happens next.
With Track Changes still on, I edit Version 2 from top to bottom, doing…you guessed it: everything I just did while reading Version 1, fleshing it out, cutting excess, catching more grammar, etc. And let me tell you, Version 2 still looks just as murdered with red as Version 1.
You know what happens when I reach the end of Version 2 and save a copy for Version 3? That’s right. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
By Version 4 or 5, I finally feel like everything I want to say is on the page. Sometimes, it’s fine by Version 3, sometimes it’s Version 6 or 7. That’s not the point. A manuscript will take as many edits as it needs. Let me repeat that. Each manuscript will take as many edits as *it* needs. There’s no right or wrong answer here. Every manuscript is unique and will need more or less attention depending on the plot, characters, where it is in the series, or how familiar the story is to you the author. The more you write, the better your writing will be, but your familiarity with the story you’re telling can make a huge difference in how it reads after the first or second draft.
So what happens after Version 5+ is satisfying to me? I give it to my beta reader in Google Docs with “suggestion” privileges turned on. She catches everything–so many things that I don’t see. She makes suggestions that blow my mind, even that many drafts in. She points to holes, no matter how small they are. She tells me what she likes or dislikes and why. She even muses about passages to me, and even those thoughts inspire me. It’s enough to make me have an epiphany.
Once she’s done reading, guess what. That’s right. I start the next Version # and edit, from start to finish, the grammar she caught (because, YES, even this far in, there are still errors), add in the things she said was missing, remove the things that didn’t work, adjust the things she pointed to, and add content based on her musings, even if that wasn’t her goal. My beta reader absolutely inspires me, just with simple comments, which is why I absolutely encourage you to find a beta reader who is not only suited to your genre and writing style but who will stick with you throughout a project. And yes, I understand that that might be difficult or even impossible. It takes a lot of their time to commit to that. If you can find someone willing to do it, and they’re as invested in your story as you are, keep and cherish their help.
Let me also add that, if you have a beta reader, not everything they say will be right or right for your story. There have been, and will likely always be, a handful of things that my beta reader has pointed to that, without knowing where the story is going, will be wrong for the story. Can I make, for example, my foreshadowing more obvious if she’s asking questions or telling me it “doesn’t fit?” Absolutely. Should I remove it because my poor foreshadowing skills weren’t obvious to her? No. I should either fix it or leave it alone because it’s intentionally vague or otherwise. While not every comment or suggestion will be right, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t consider why she pointed to it, even if there’s nothing wrong with it. And oftentimes, I do try to be a bit more transparent because I want my readers to follow my thoughts.
So now I’m on Version 7. What next?
My second beta reader. That’s right. My second one gets what’s considered the “nearly finished” product. She finds the technical things. Her responses are less about the emotional aspects of the story and more about the grammatical, plot, and character development. Hell, even things like “Was this a thing they did in the fifth-century?” are things she had pointd to. And then we have a conversation about it, research it–sometimes together–and come up with solutions. Is this what a typical beta reader will do? No. This is more of a critique partner-level reading, and let me tell you, her help means the world to me, too.
So now Version 7 has been torn apart. You already know what I’m going to say next, right? Version 8 comes about after addressing everything she’s pointed to.
Version 9 is my last read-through for grammar and nitpicking my own dialogue tags and paragraph placement. At the end of it, I’ll save it as Version 10, upload it to Google Docs, and send it off to my editor. She’s the last content read-through. Once I address anything she finds–at this point, it’s minimal or minor things–she line-edits for my approval. Once we’re both satisfied, we have the final manuscript.
That’s it. That’s the insanity of my writing process. Is it long and grueling? Oh, yes. Is it necessary? Honestly, probably not. Does it matter to me to be meticulous in my writing, in my plot and character development, in my world-building and storytelling? Yes. It’s what matters most to me, short of impacting the people reading my work.
I’ll tell you a secret that isn’t actually a secret. This isn’t, and never will be, about money for me. Writing is my passion because I want to be–to even one reader–what so many authors have been to me: an inspiration of any kind. Whether that’s inspiring them to take their next breath because they feel a little less alone in this dark world or the inspiration to be stronger because they feel seen by one of my characters. I give my novels as much attention as I would give that reader if they needed me to hear them speak.
What You Know
by D. W. Hitz (@dustinhitz)
Last night I learned something.
It was around ten at night, a crisp, breezy summer night.
The guy paid for his cigarettes and left the gas station, walking down the same path I had seen him take before. I think he lived under the Third Street bridge and was heading back that way. That meant I had two blocks.
I walked behind him.
I thought about his dingy green hoodie and wondered how it was going to feel. Stiff and scratchy is what I assumed. I mean, I didn’t think he had washed it in weeks, maybe months. I thought that it was probably going to smell too. But how bad? I wondered what that was going to be like.
My heart pumped. I expected that would happen. I noted it in my list of things to remember. My stomach tensed. It bubbled up with acid. I noted that.
I neared the man.
My arms tingled, and goosebumps trickled down my limbs. I felt my pants brush against my legs. The hair on my back pressed against my skin underneath my shirt. My socks moved millimeters between my feet and my shoes as I pressed my foot to the ground. Noted.
I was right behind him.
The air had a taste, like a humid, evergreen salad. I could smell the damp, scent of soil in the breeze from the early evening’s rain. I hadn’t even realized it had rained when I left the house. Noted.
I was beside him.
My breath rushed in and out. Was he going to notice my lungs’ pace? I took out my own pack of cigarettes. I hadn’t smoked in ten years, but I had bought some tonight, and I put one in my mouth.
“Got a light?” I asked him. My voice was shaky. I couldn’t hold it still, and I hoped he didn’t pick up on its tone.
We were almost to the bridge, and I could hear chatting in the distance. Sure, there were probably others under the bridge that he lived with. But could they see us? Would they come to help?
“Yeah,” the man said. I could see his face now. He looked to be in his mid-fifties, with a short gray beard. His features were worn-down, yet firm. His hands dug into his pants’ pockets.
I glanced to the bridge. I didn’t see anyone there. No one to interfere.
He lifted up a lighter in his left hand. As he flicked a flame from it, I looked back the way we had come. No one in sight along the road. No headlights approaching. I moved my face toward the fire and tightened my fist. I took a puff, and then another. His flame darted inside my cigarette, and a new one flickered from its tip. The warm woody taste of smoke crawled down my throat. He lowered his lighter, and I exhaled.
My toes shook inside my boots. My teeth chattered, and my lungs wanted to cough. Instead, I pushed the force into my arm and swung it into a wide hook, sinking my fist into the side of the man’s chest.
I felt his hoodie. It was softer than I expected, with a patch of stiffness.
He curled in, releasing a gruff gasp of air and a small groan.
I noted the sound.
The man growled. His other side shifted, and his body pivoted. There was a glint of light, and after a second, my ribs burned.
“What?” I said. The burning spiked into pain. White-hot pain that rippled along my side. I looked down, and the man was pulling back his bloody hand and a bloody knife within it.
“Fuck you!” the man said. He jabbed the knife into my belly and yanked it back.
My legs wobbled. I couldn’t feel them. I couldn’t feel my hands or my face. All I could feel was the sharp scream of pain from my abdomen as I toppled backward to the sidewalk.
I groaned, and a sharp crack surged through the back of my head as it found the cement. Cool, rough cement. It was textured with lines, slightly waving as they tracked from the street to the grass. Dark pebbles and tiny clumps of dirt broke the monotony of the gritty surface.
“Fucker,” the man grumbled. His hands walked over my clothes and dug into my pockets. He fished out my cigarettes, my phone, and then my wallet. He stood and took a step toward the bridge, but stopped. He looked back at me and spat. The goddamn fucker spat at me, as if stabbing me twice and robing me wasn’t enough.
As his footsteps clopped away, I prayed. The back of my head warmed until a breeze slid by, and the heat was blown away in exchange for chilly wetness.
Maybe, maybe somebody would find me. Someone would have to drive by and call for help. And I wondered, now do I know enough to write what I know.
Finding Your Writing Process
by: Crystal Kirkham (@canuckclick)
The writing process, for those who are unfamiliar with this term, are the methods used to generate a finished piece of writing. Generally, the writing process can be broken into prewriting, drafting, editing, and publishing. Your process will likely include most of these steps and not necessarily in that exact order.
When it comes to exactly what these parts of the writing process should look like, advice is everywhere to be found. In truth, there is no one correct way to write your novel or short story. We all need to find the process that work best for us and, sometimes, that process varies depending on the needs of the project.
When you’re trying to discover your writing process, the best advice I can give you is to try different ways of approaching each part and don’t be afraid to do things that go against popular advice if you find that it works for you. Mostly, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re doing it wrong. This is YOUR process and no one else can tell you what is right or wrong in your process.
So, let’s break the process down and look at each part individually.
This portion covers everything from the first glint of an idea to outlining and research. Some stories will require more work than others in this stage. There will be times that you stop in the writing or editing stages to do more research or outlining, but no matter how you approach writing, this tends to be one of the first steps in the process.
For the most part, this part can be broken down into three main types of writers: plotters, pantsers, and plantsers.
Plotters tend to do a lot more work at this stage, from outlining to researching. Plotting can take many forms from writing out a detailed outline to using spreadsheet to a single page only detailing the major plot points. If you are a plotter, you’re likely taking a bit of time to work things out before you start to write that first page of your story.
There so many different ways to plot out a story that I don’t have room to list them all here. Try a few of them if you don’t know what kind of pre-writer you are yet. You never know what might stick.
Pantsers are writers who take that shiny idea and run with it. They don’t take the time to work out the plot or subplots or even who the characters are before they start out writing their story. The term pantser comes from the phrase “flying by the seat of your pants”. A lot of pantsers tend to discover their story by writing it and there is nothing wrong with doing that either.
One thing to be aware of when you try pantsing a novel is that it may mean spending more time in the editing stage or taking a bit longer at the drafting stage. Doing almost nothing in the pre-writing stage isn’t for everyone, but it is always worth a try.
Plantsers is that place in between the two extremes and is simply a combination of plotter and pantser. A lot of writers fall into this category with tendencies to lean a bit more one way or the other. A plantser may only take the time to have a good idea of a character or two and the ending they are working towards while the rest of the novel is pantsed. Or perhaps they have a bit more than that, but they haven’t figured out all the plot points, they may have done a bit of basic research if necessary and when necessary only.
This stage is exactly what it sounds like—the stage of the process where you start to put it all together. You’ve done as much of the pre-writing stage as works for your method. Now, you write.
Some say that you need to write every day or that you should have weekly word count goals. There are also people who say you should focus on one story until it’s finished and then write the next. Do what’s works for you and, if you don’t know what works, it won’t take long before you discover what does. Some people can’t write several different things concurrently, some people always have multiple projects on the go. There are writers who religiously write every day no matter what and those that squeeze it in on the weekends.
When it comes drafting the first copy of your story, don’t be afraid to jump back into the pre-writing stage or jump ahead to the editing stage if you need to. Some writers will simply draft their first copy and then edit, some will write a chapter do multiple steps in the editing stage and then write the next chapter.
The only wrong way to draft your story is to not write it at all.
This is often listed as being several stages—editing, proofreading, and/or revising. To me they are all part of the editing stage based on the definition of editing, “to prepare written material for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it.”.
As mentioned in the previous section, this stage can be happening throughout the drafting stage or not be done until after. There are some people who will even re-draft their entire story one or more times before they even get to this stage. It doesn’t matter how you get here or when you do it, but it is safe to assume that almost every story written will have been touched by this stage at some point.
Some writers, usually more experienced ones, can write amazingly clean first drafts that only require a touch of proofreading for small issues. Usually this is because they have been doing some edits along the way. Other writers will revise and edit multiple times before getting beta-reader feedback then editing and revising the story yet again based on feedback.
When it comes to beta-readers (early readers of your work who help point out issues with your story) or sensitivity readers (people who focus on issues regarding sensitive topics) or even critique partners (another writer who helps you work through your story), you can have none or you can have several. Like everything else, it’s all about what works for you.
Some writers will hire professional editors to help them with this stage of the process, but you don’t have to do this. However, if your goal is to move on to stage four as a professional, then you might want to consider finding help (paid or unpaid) if editing is not something you are experienced with.
Though you don’t have to do this step it is highly recommended to do some sort of editing or proofreading if you are putting your work out for others to read.
This is probably one of the most terrifying parts of the writing experience—putting your work out there where others can read it. It can be as simple as putting it on a blog or as complicated as finding an agent and going the route of traditional publishing.
In all honesty, the various paths to publishing is a huge topic on its own and the most optional part of the writing process. Some people are happy to keep their work to themselves and some want to make a living by writing. There are also options like Archive of Our Own (AO3) and Wattpad where you share your writing as well as getting your name out there.
If you are looking to make money your main choices are self-publishing, small press or traditional publishing. Some of these require a lot more work at this stage than others. With small press or traditional publishing, you are very likely to end up back in edits as the publisher will have an in-house editor that will go over manuscript.
Choosing the right path for you comes down to what kind of work you are willing to put into this novel because, don’t kid yourself on this, not one of these options is “the easy route” when done right. It is possible when self-publishing to simply throw work up on Kindle without any editing or marketing or even half-decent cover, but isn’t recommended if you are looking to be successful and professional.
No matter what publishing path you choose, do your research and decide what will work for you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not a real author because you chose to self-publisher or you went with a small press or because you don’t have an agent.
As writers, we need to build our own ‘toolboxes’ of things that work for us. Think of all these suggestions as tools. Try some, see what fits, and decide what you want to keep in your own toolbox and toss the ones that don’t work for you. More places and ways to find tools can include attending writer’s conferences, joining writer’s groups and read a lot in the genre you enjoy writing in.
Be creative, and enjoy building a toolbox that will serve you well because that is what will help you to achieve your writing goals.
A Short History of the Writing Process
As a writer, do you measure up to the greats? Do you juggle while you type, like Chaucer didn’t? Do you edit as you go like we thought Hexacube of Thrust did until new documents showed that, in fact, they did not? Let’s look at the history of how writers write right. Or wrong. I don’t know. I don’t much care for writing personally. This is being dictated to a gibbon.
The earliest comment on the writing process comes to us from a stone tablet found near modern Hazmatistan and is dated around 1300 BCE. It reads, ‘Writing is forbidden’. Contradictory — but sound — advice, according to people. And that was how it went until Aristotle published his ‘Poetics’ in 335 BCE, which advises careful moderation and beseechs authors to ‘Get ‘er done, Cousin Bo!’ based on something I’m sure I read somewhere.
Post-Aristotle, stories were shouted into a big copper tube, rather than being written down, so not much remains there, sadly. Most texts between around 300 CE and 1500 CE recommend bleeding out with leeches as an aid to writing, a cure for chilblains, and as an all-round smashingly good idea.
Shakespeare wrote eleven hours a day and relaxed by playing pool for all we know. An anonymous text from the Bard’s time entitled ‘Howe to Wryte An Bestsyeller’ recommends writing in the morning ‘Betwixt Matins and Ante-Matins, and be shur ye not be a womeynly wryter, lest ye be burnt uponst the stayke.’ So not hugely helpful there either, really. The brilliant Chinese scholar and thinker Chen Hongmu wrote out his daily schedule for his students, but I can’t find it.
Of course, different cultures take different approaches to productivity. Martians for example. They do things quite differently. You’ll all see that when the time comes.
Breaks, however, have always been important to writers no matter what planet they are currently biding their time on. Jenry Jozybynzkjzczcz (1706-1756), took a long break from writing his famed erotic sonnets when he died. When asked about her approach to taking breaks, noted author Norbina Snotcorpse (1743-2011) said, ‘I have nothing to say about this.’
In modern times, the most extensive survey into authorly writing habits began at the University of Dufflekoat in Germany in 1976. It has, to date, cost $11.6bn, garnered 12.7bn different responses, and driven six researchers completely mad.
So you see, reader, agriculture is an important part of a diverse economy how you approach your writing is entirely up to you! Until the Martians come, obviously. Then we’ll all be hooked up to tubes that link us to the Great Mind.
-Dr. Christmas Forhead, February, 2020*
*As found in a Pizza Hut toilet by Paul Grealish.
Taking a Longer View of Drafting a Book
by Renée Gendron (@reneegendron)
This month’s A Muse Bouche Review’s theme is on the writing process. I want to start by saying every writer has their process, and there’s no right or wrong way to write. What I’m presenting below is a glimpse into how I approach writing. Please don’t feel obligated to try to mimic it. I can appreciate my writing process could be perceived as overwhelming.
I write fantasy romance series. Really long series. My first series is 29 books, my second series is 48 books, and my third will be 86 books.
The numbers aren’t type-os. I write a long series.
I start by thinking of the series-wide conflict. I’ve tried to write stand-alone books but find I wanted to explore the community and the world too much to cram into one book. What drives the conflict in this world? What kind of conflict is wide-enough and exciting enough to span a series?
Once I have that arc in a few bullet points, I drill down to the individual books. I point-form in a specific series of notebooks (side note: I bought so many of this series of notebooks I had to have new shelves put in place). I give the lead characters names, and then I assign a genre. All of my books are fantasy romance. In addition, I’ll add another genre, such as thriller or mystery or action-adventure.
Once I’ve done half-page point-form beats of each book in a series, I put the information into a table. I know a series is complete when the main driver or conflict of the series is resolved. The series feels complete. At least to me.
The information is in table form with this information: book number, character names, romance tropes, fantasy tropes, genre, faction goal, and series goal. After that’s all been plugged in, I review the table to make sure each combination of tropes and genres is unique. When you write ridiculously long series as I do, you have to keep each book fresh. I’ve read series where the author got lazy and relied on a formula. The prose was excellent and the characters unique-enough, but by the fourth book in a series, I knew what to expect as a conclusion and found it hard to engage with the books. I strive to keep my readers engaged.
Meta conflict established—table of series complete. I then write 50-80 pages of point-form outlines of each book, and I break down the outlines per chapter. Each chapter indicates the point of view character, the intentions of the chapter and any critical decision. Under intentions, I state key character development moments, key decisions, key inter-personal conflicts, and dilemmas. From there, I detail the chapter. Sometimes I include bits of dialogue, other times, I type pieces of worldbuilding, and then I put critical moments and scenes within the chapter. Once an outline is complete, I send it off to a professional editor to critique it. The editor tells me where my plot sags, where best to end the chapter, how to sharpen character development and points out any inconsistencies in plot or loose ends.
Right. Outline critiqued, I write. I’ll word vomit out a draft. It’s not pretty to read. I’ll sit down and type the thing out to see how the outline compares to how it’s written. I’ll make notes to myself on where the plot doesn’t work, on a fascinating character dynamic to explore on the next go-around, on a subplot that needs be fleshed out, and so on.
Then, I write the next book. And the next book. Until the series is complete in rough form. How rough? Often you need to squint to see a coherent sentence. I do this to make sure the pieces of the entire series fit. I do this to make sure the character development is foreshadowed adequately throughout the series.
I strive for internal consistency within the books and within the series. In my view, to achieve this, I need to understand how the pieces fall for the entire series first, then polish up the version.
For my first series, I have Book 1, A Gift of Stars, that’s ready for professional edits. I’m working on improving Book 2. Book 2 of Series 1 will need a few more drafts to make it presentable. I cycle between re-writing Book 2 of Series 1 and drafting novellas and fleshing out outlines of Series 2. I rotate between writing, editing and drafting outlines to keep the ideas fresh, hone my craft by writing about different things, and my mind busy.
I hope my process makes sense. I’d appreciate your insights on it. Feel free to reach out on twitter.
PS: A Gift of Stars is available for Pre-Order.
http://reneegendron.com/stories/a-gift-of-stars-section-1-chapter-1 There are multiple sections of chapter under September and October 2019.
Chat with me at @reneegendron