Firstly, an apology of sorts, for the title of this blog post. It’s in part a bad joke, as I love time travel stories and in part, rather apt considering the topic I’ve chosen to blog about.
I’ve had a few people ask about my writing process, and a huge part of that is juggling the day job as one of the things I find challenging about writing is not the lack of ideas, but finding the time to sit down and actually write. I often think, at the risk of jinxing myself, I have more plot bunnies than sense, but I blame that in part in being born in the year of the rabbit.
I also like to write in series, and I usually have plots and ideas for several books that-a-way running around in my head as well as the one I’m currently working on.
So, how to manage all of that and actually produce a novel?
In my day job, which is in a library, I work what might be considered ‘weird’ hours. I start at 12.15 and finish at 8.45 at night three days a week, and I work weekends. This means, in order to write, I need to be disciplined. Some days it’s very tempting to stay in bed, or fluff around and have some downtime before work. If I did that my writing would fall by the wayside, so instead I set an alarm and make sure I’m sitting down by a certain time so I get at least an hour’s writing time before work.
Some days of course, this works better than others, and I’m also often left feeling very scheduled out, especially during the week. The upside is, though, that I see my current manuscript growing steadily, even if it’s just 500 words a day, and by the end of the week that adds up to several thousand words. I try to do a bit more on weekends, depending on what else is going on, but that doesn’t always work. Like today when I have to take my cat to the vet, and she’s the hysterical type who will vanish as soon as she gets a whiff of a cage being anywhere near the house.
Once the first draft is done, and the story is ‘down” and inflicted upon my beta readers (who are a very important part of the writing process) one chapter at a time, it’s time to tighten up and move into draft #2. This is when I weigh up all the beta reader comments, which is often a mix of ‘what the hell were you thinking?’ and ‘oh I loved this’, hopefully more of the latter than the former. Beta reading is far more than comma sprinkling and catching typos, and I’d never submit a manuscript without one. As a writer, I’m too close to the characters and story, and often it’s not easy to take that step back I need to see what is working or not. Draft #2 done, and it’s off to the betas again, often one chapter at a time for more comments – hopefully less than the time before.
Draft #3 is quickly followed by #4 and then sent off to another set of betas for a ‘cold read’.
Then it’s submission time and time to dig out the outline for the next story and start all over. I’ve found with my more recent stories, it’s easier to have an outline/character guide in front of me for the story, as well as the screeds of handwritten scribbles in my hardcopy notebooks. It helps to exorcise the future WIPS while I’m working on my current ones. That’s what I tell myself anyway even if the characters still go off on tangents and do their own thing, and vampires are pushy as. I like my illusions.
Oh and that second to last sentence wasn’t a typo. That’s what we say here in New Zealand. Sweet as, cold as, or whatnot. One day I need to put that into one of my locally set stories – and yes there is a fair few of those on the To Be Written pile too.
To finish I’m going to share an excerpt from my latest release Magic’s Muse, a story which does tie in with this post as one of the characters, Tomas, is a writer. His writing process is a little different from mine, but then he has someone more than happy to help him role play to get certain scenes just right
I’d love to hear about others’ writing process, from ideas to submission.
Magic’s Muse, sequel to Cat’s Quill.
Tomas and Cathal have escaped from Naearu, Cathal’s mystical homeworld, but happily ever after is never as straightforward in real life as it is in books. Then again, most people don’t deal with the complication of a lover who’s magically bound to a tree or have an interfering cat for a cousin.
With Naearu’s police force, the Falcons, still after Cathal, he can’t go home. Now that he and Tomas have consummated their relationship, Cathal’s abilities are evolving and changing to the point that Tomas can sense them. And until the oak portal closes, Cathal—and his new life with Tomas—are in limbo as Cathal can’t expect Tomas to stay with someone who can never venture past the property line. Will he and Tomas ever get to follow through on their engagement?
Cathal smiled. He removed the pencil from behind Tomas’s ear and placed it on the desk. He’d chewed the end of it again. “What I’ve read of it so far is very good, and I’m not just saying that because I love you.”
“That’s good to know.” Tomas threaded his fingers through Cathal’s hair, playing with it. Cathal had suggested shortening the length, as it was longer than what he’d observed to be the norm in this world, but Tomas would have none of it. He liked it the way it was, so unless it was something Cathal really wanted to do, there was no need for it to be cut. Apparently there was a wider variety now in what was considered fashionable than there was the previous time he’d visited. He’d worn it longer then too, and no one had commented, although he’d noticed the sideways looks he and Christian had received because of their dress and manner of speech.
“Can I read what you’ve written today?” Cathal was keen to see how the story was progressing. It was very different being able to read something as it was written, rather than having to wait until it was finished. It reminded him of when he was a child and his mother would tell them a story by the fire each night, careful to leave it in such a place so they’d want more.
“Of course.” Tomas leaned over and tapped several keys on his laptop. A whirring sound filled the room, and the printer began to spit out pieces of paper covered in writing. He’d shown Cathal how the machine worked earlier that morning. With every visit to this world, it seemed as though the devices they used became smaller and could do so much more. There were still so many new things to learn about and discover. Even the technology with which he thought he was familiar had changed, although he hadn’t had the opportunity to ask as many questions as he’d like. Taking things apart to find out more had gotten him into trouble ninety years ago, and he wasn’t about to test the theory that it might again.
Cathal got up from Tomas’s lap and retrieved the papers once the machine had done its work. He flopped down on the bed, already beginning to read what was written on them and losing himself in the words. “Oh, you’ve written the kiss!” This was what he and Tomas had role played, and the last time he’d seen it had been as handwritten notes in Tomas’s journal. Now Tomas was “taking dictation again”, he’d reverted to using his laptop instead of writing longhand, as he said it was faster and easier to edit later.
“And more.” Tomas didn’t move from his chair but instead watched Cathal read, chuckling at the way in which he devoured the new material.
“Deimos isn’t as good at keeping secrets as he thinks, is he?” It was very apparent, the more Cathal read, that Deimos was not of this world. His speech slipped into more of an old-fashioned pattern on several occasions. He also seemed unaware of some of the things of which Mark spoke, but that was understandable, as Cathal hadn’t heard of some of them either. What was 3D, and who was Harry Potter? How could so much have happened in this world in such a short time?
“Neither were you, my love.” Tomas stretched his arms out and took another sip of coffee. “I didn’t realize just how much at the time, but as they say, hindsight is twenty-twenty.”
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand, sharing her home with her twin daughters, at least during the holidays, when one of them isn’t away at university. Her son has left home and started his own family, although she claims she is too young to be a grandmother already. Her three cats are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.
In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching and has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and a librarian. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction club and plays piano for her local church and violin for a local orchestra.
She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.