What’s Your Writing Process?
Normally, I avoid doing any type of “writerly” blog posts because for most people, they’re a good substitute for sleeping pills.
But . . . chatting about the human writing process is a little different. Nearly all of us write, whether it’s fiction, poetry, essays, letters, reports for work, etc. And everyone has a different process.
When I chose my major in college, people were shocked when I did not wish to go into teaching creative writing. Seriously. I’ve never taught a creative writing course. I did my master’s degree in composition theory, and I teach essay writing. The reason behind this is that I don’t have the first clue how to teach someone else to write fiction. It’s something that I “do,” but I don’t really understand it. I have a firm grasp of how to teach someone how to write an essay. I also spent years studying what goes on inside our minds as we attempt to write.
When you hear the phrase “writing process,” it can mean several different things. For one, we all have a personal writing process—meaning in reference to the way our brains and habits function. There are perfect drafters, binge writers, over-planners . . . procrastinators, etc. The list goes on.
I’m a firm believer that deadlines play into this process.
For example, my husband and writing partner, J.C. suffers from being a perfect drafter. He'll write a sentence and then stare at it. Something isn't quite right with that sentence. He'll change a few words--or maybe the order of the words--and then stare at the sentence again. Sometimes thirty minutes will go by, and he hasn't moved on to the next sentence. This is a stressful way to write, and these folks tend to start projects early if they are to meet a deadline.
Then there are procrastinators. These writers let the ideas churn and swirl inside their heads. They have been given two to three weeks to write a six-page project, and the ideas are still swirling twenty-four hours before the project is due, but not a word has been written. Ten hours before the project is due, they start drinking coffee like it's going out of style, and then they sit down and start hammering out words. They do get the project done, but they are often unhappy with it because it really needs to "cool" for a few days before quality revision can take place. But it's due and needs to be submitted.
Then, there are the over-planners. These writers love to do research and outlining. They will come up with a grand idea that excites them, and they will begin research. They also have two to three weeks for a project, but they spend most of that time doing research, taking notes, and outlining. They are having a fabulous time until they realize the project is due, and they haven't actually started writing yet.
I'm a "binge writer." I have a friend, another fiction writer named James Van Pelt, who is the complete opposite of me. He’s capable of getting up every day and writing three pages of a novel or story and then saving his work, closing the file, and going to work (he's also a teacher).
I am sooooooo jealous of him. I can't do that. With fiction, I have to become completely immersed (meaning “lost”) in a project. As a result, I only write fiction on breaks between college terms. But within a few days of starting a novel, I do nothing besides write from dawn to dark. This is a little hard J.C. because I'm also the cook in our house, and during those writing binges, we eat a lot of cereal, tuna sandwiches, and pizza.
But a few days into starting a novel, I'm getting up at 4:30 in the morning, making coffee, and pounding on keys. A Girl of White Winter is just over 80,000 words, and I wrote it in three and a half weeks. What’s more, I don’t remember writing it. I read it afterward, and I was very caught up in the story. It’s heart wrenching. Hah! But I don’t remember writing it.
This is not unusual. I’ve woken up to emails from students that read, “Barb, I finished the first draft of my essay last night at midnight. It’s on why Orca whales should not be kept in captivity. I got caught up in the topic, and I don’t remember writing it. But I just read it, and I think it’s pretty good. I’ve attached it here. Will you read it for me early and tell me what you think?”
I’m always glad to read projects early and give feedback, and I really understand what a student means when he or she says, “I don’t remember writing this.”
But the processes I list above are just several examples. What is your typical process? Think about this. Do you like your process? Or would you prefer to change it?
A GIRL OF WHITE WINTER
A Dark Glass Novel Book #3
A Dark Glass Novel Book #3
Kara, as a ward with no parentage and no future, has been raised knowing nothing outside her lady’s chambers. Until Royce Capello, a visiting nobleman, is struck by her ice-pale looks, and demands her as payment for the land the family needs.
With barely time to protest, Kara is sold and packed off for a life as a concubine—until a raiding party descends on Royce’s company and she’s kidnapped for the second time in as many days.
Whatever happens, Kara will be alone in the world, inexperienced and fearing even the vast unfamiliar sky. But one raider gives her a choice—and a magic mirror appears to show her where each path will lead…
She can leave with her protector Raven and journey with his performing troupe, competing for his mercurial affections.
She can flee the raiders’ settlement, and return to Royce’s manor, chattel among devious nobility.
Or she can stay in the settlement, bound to firm, silent Caine, who is as gentle as he is staid and inscrutable.
Her fates twist and turn to affect far more than she could have guessed, tangling the bitter with the sweet—and Kara must choose which consequences she can live with…
“My troupe leaves in the morning,” he said.
For some reason, this news brought a fresh wave of fear. He was the only one who really talked to me. And he was leaving in the morning? Standing up again, he walked to the door.
“But for now, I’m going to head back to the common house and see how Grandfather is faring with Caine.” He paused. “I’m not going to lock the door.”
Setting down the bowl, I stood as well. Firelight reflected off the side of his face.
“The way I see it,” he went on, “you have three options. While everyone is distracted, you could slip out of here tonight. No one guards the mouth of the chute. On foot, in the dark, you could press close to the near wall of the chute and make your way down with no one up above on watch seeing you.”
My breaths quickened in fear at the thought of trying to flee this place and make it back to de Marco lands, to my lady, on my own.
“Or,” he said. “You can stay here and take your chances and find out what Caine wants.”
“Or?” I whispered.
“Or…you could come on the road with me.” He amended quickly. “I mean with us, with my troupe. You’d belong to yourself, but you could travel with us.”
A wild rush of hope rose up. “Could you take me home, to the de Marco manor?”
“No. Only small raiding groups of men ever go north into those estate lands. I won’t risk any of my people. We’re heading east. If you want to go back, you’re on your own.”
Despair replaced hope. His refusal had been swift and final.
But another thought occurred. “I couldn’t go with you if I wished to. Caine would never allow it.”
“He would if I asked him. He owes me…or thinks he does. I’ve never asked him for anything, but I’d ask him for this, and he wouldn’t refuse.”
I was moved that Raven would use up a favor to help me, but I also feared the prospect of joining a troupe of strangers traveling east, farther from my home.
He watched me a few moments longer.
“Choices are all that matter in this life,” he said. “And we have to be free to make our own. You think on this, and I’ll be back before dawn. If you’re gone, I’ll know you chose to run. If you’re here, you can tell me what you’ve decided.” He walked out. “I won’t lock the door.”
But he closed it.
I was alone again.
A CHOICE OF CROWNS
A Dark Glass Novel Book #2
Olivia Geroux knew her king was reluctant to marry her, whatever the negotiations had arranged. But she never expected to find handsome, arrogant King Rowan obsessed with his stepsister instead. And before she can determine what course to take, she overhears her greatest ally plotting to murder the princess.
Olivia must act quickly—and live with whatever chaos results. As the assassin hunts his prey, a magic mirror appears to show Olivia the three paths that open before her . . .
If she hesitates only a moment, the princess will die—and she will become queen.
If she calls for help, she will gain great power—but she must also thrust away her own happiness.
If she runs to stop the murder herself, she will know love and contentment—but her whole country will suffer.
As she lives out each path, her wits and courage will be tested as she fights to protect her people, her friends, and her heart. And deciding which to follow will be far from easy . . .
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“You’re to marry King Rowan,” my father said flatly. “His mother, the dowager queen, and I have arranged it.”
I stood still as his words began to sink in, but I still couldn’t quite follow what he was trying to convey. “King Rowan…the dowager queen…is this why you’ve been receiving so many messages?”
His eyes flashed, and I dropped my gaze, cursing myself. Father did not brook questions from his children. He expected only two things from us: strength and obedience. But the slight shaking in my hands grew to a tremble. Had I heard him correctly? I was to marry the king?
Stepping around the desk, he approached me. “Do you know anything of the rumors surrounding King Rowan?”
Unfortunately, I did, hence the reason my hands trembled. Even here, in the isolated southeast, rumors still reached us. In his late twenties, Rowan de Blaise was a young king and had held the throne for only two years. But over those two years, four betrothals with foreign princesses had been arranged via proxy. Envoys had been sent to Partheney to finalize negotiations. In all four cases, when the envoys arrived, Rowan refused to even see them. He’d sent them away.
“I know some of the stories,” I answered my father. “I know betrothals have been arranged, and he’s sent the envoys packing.”
“Yes.” My father nodded. “His mother, the dowager, was the one who arranged the betrothals. She is anxious to see him married and founding a line of heirs.”
“Why will he not marry?”
My father waved one hand in the air. “That is of no matter. What matters is, the dowager has decided to stop seeking a foreign princess and marry him into one of our own noble families. She’s wise and has chosen the line of Géroux. We’ll be linked to royalty, and I’ll be the grandfather of kings.”
The truth of all this hit me, and my hands ceased trembling. I would be queen.
Clearly there were obstacles, but I allowed my initial worries to vanish and let my mind flow. Father expected complete success from himself and would expect nothing less of me. This thought made me brave. “If Rowan has refused to even see the envoys,” I began, “what makes you and the dowager think he will agree to entertain negotiations this time?”
My question was bold, but instead of growing angry, Father only looked at me as if I were simple—which I was not.
“Because as I said, you will leave in the morning,” he answered. “I’m not sending envoys. I have no faith in envoys. I’m sending you. You’ll go to the castle, meet the king, and handle negotiations yourself. You are a daughter of the Géroux. He cannot turn you away.”
“You’ll not come with me?”
“No. That was my first instinct, but the dowager believes it best if the king is given no choice in facing you directly. It will force him to be…polite.” His expression darkened. “And you will not fail to secure him. Do you understand? You will not fail.”
I met his eyes without flinching.
THROUGH A DARK GLASS
A Dark Glass Novel Book 1
On her seventeenth birthday, Megan of Chaumont discovers she’ll be sold as a bride to the brutish Volodane family—within hours. Her father grants only that she may choose which one of the ruthless, grasping lord's three sons she weds:
Rolf, the eldest: stern, ambitious, and loyal?
Sebastian, the second son: sympathetic, sly, and rebellious?
Or Kai, the youngest: bitter, brooding, and proud?
As shy, horrified Megan flees the welcome dinner for her in-laws-to-be, she finds an enchanted mirror that will display how her life unrolls with each man, as if she were living it out in a breath. But there is no smooth “happily ever after” in her choices.
Deaths and honors, joys and agonies, intrigues and escapes await her in a remote, ramshackle keep, where these rough but complex men reveal one side and then another of their jagged characters—and bring forth new aspects of Megan, too. But the decisions of one teenaged marriage-pawn reverberate much farther than any of them have guessed . . .
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Then for the first time, he looked directly at me.
“I fear you’ll find the furnishings at Volodane Hall somewhat lacking,” he said.
His voice dripped with resentment, and I knew I’d not been wrong in my first assessment. He was angry.
His tone was not lost on my mother, who answered him with a strained smile. “Of course, we’ll be sending some household things with her, and Megan will give your hall a woman’s touch.”
These words made me wonder what had happened to Kai’s mother. I’d never asked and no one had mentioned this, but it seemed I would be the lady of their house. The very thought ensured I would not manage to eat another bite of dinner.
Kai studied my mother evenly and breathed out through his teeth. “Our hall won’t be good enough for her. Nothing of us or ours will be good enough.”
Then I realized the source of his anger. He resented the need for this bargain as much as we did. He knew that we—and most of the noble houses—looked down upon the Volodanes, and the last thing he probably wanted was a permanent reminder in his home of their lowly state in comparison to ours.
Barb Hendee is the New York Times bestselling author of The Mist-Torn Witches series. She is the co-author (with husband J.C.) of the Noble Dead Saga. She holds a master’s degree in composition/rhetoric from the University of Idaho and currently teaches writing for Umpqua Community College. She and J.C. live in a quirky two-level townhouse just south of Portland, Oregon.
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