The Writing Process — Blog Tour

Joanna Lilley, poet, non-fiction writer and all around wonderful woman, tagged me to participate in The Writing Process Blog Tour. The idea behind the tour is that the “tagged” writer answers four questions about her (or his) writing process and then tags one or two other writers to do the same. It seems like a lot of fun, doesn’t it? Here are the questions:

What am I working on?

Weeping Woman Right now I’m finishing the first draft of my fourth Mendenhall mystery, in which my poor heroine, Mendenhall Chief of Police Kate Williams, rushes home to Montreal after her mother is struck down by a hit-and-run driver. Then Kate learns that the accident may have been a deliberate attempt to get her away from Mendenhall.

Cover Tuxedoed ManUnlike many other writers I know, I only work on one thing at a time. If commitments force me to start something new before I’ve finished the piece I’m working on, I set the piece aside until I’ve met the obligation, then I go back to the original story and finish it. My head hurts at the thought of bopping between stories.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

Backli cover-POD-Dube name-REVI never met a genre I didn’t want to cross. Is it mystery, or is it fantasy? Is it fantasy or science fiction? Or something in between? Pity the poor bookseller trying to figure out where to shelve my books! Even my mysteries cross sub-genres, for Pete’s sake. For instance, the Mendenhall Mysteries are technically police procedurals, but they feel like cozies.

While in some of my stories the fate of humanity teeters in the balance, all my stories start from a small incident and build from there, character by character, until I have a finished story that, miraculously, has a beginning, middle and end.

Why do I write what I do?

Really, it’s not like I have a choice. I write the stories that are in me to write. And there are many, many stories clamoring to be written. They jostle around inside my head, jockeying to be the first at the top of my mind when I finally turn my attention to the next project.

I have noticed a theme in most of my work (I never set out with a theme in mind—it just happens). Almost all my stories deal with someone who is caught between two cultures, two worlds, two stages in his life. Someone who doesn’t fit in the environment in which she finds herself. The stories almost always revolve around my characters finding out where they belong, how they fit. While having misadventures along the way, of course.

How does my writing process work?

I try to write every day after work. I aim for 1000 words a day, but often have to content myself with fewer. I’m a morning person—well, maybe a day person is more accurate. I refuse to get up any earlier than I already do for work. Weekends, of course, are best. Anything past 8 p.m. and really, I’m no good to anyone.

Shoeless Kid As for the actual writing… well. I wish I could say I always have a plan before I start writing and follow it until I have a brilliantly plotted story at the end. Ha. In reality, I almost always start with an incident. Something that catches my attention. For The Shoeless Kid, the first in the Mendenhall Mysteries, I saw a shoe abandoned in the middle of the road. And that got me to thinking about how that could have happened.

So I start writing to find out. It’s messy and convoluted and means going back to fix many, many things. It means a lot of swearing under the breath when I realize I have to trash whole scenes in favour of ones that actually fit.

This latest Mendenhall mystery, for instance. I can’t wait to finish it so I can figure out what the darned this is about.

There has to be a better way.

That’s it for me. It feels a little immodest to be discussing myself in detail. Blame Jo Lilley. Now I’m tagging Karen Abrahamson to join the The Writing Process Blog Tour. Go visit her and learn more about her and her writing. She’s a fabulous writer.

Why it matters

[This is a post I wrote for Not Your Usual Suspects, published June 13, 2014.]

A few weeks ago, I posted to a local arts list about a free podcast of a short story of mine. The story, The Verdant Gene, is science fiction and part of the Fiction River: Moonscapes anthology. I was very pleased that the publishers decided to feature my story that week, as they had a great selection of stories from which to pick.

A day or so later, a fellow I know slightly wrote to tell me that he had loved the story and that it was “first rate.”

I actually got tears in my eyes. Isn’t that silly?FR Moonscapes ebook cover web

It was kind of him to take the time to let me know what he thought. We probably wouldn’t know each other if we passed each other on the street, so he needn’t have said anything and I would never have known that he had listened to the story, let alone whether or not he liked it. But he made a point of telling me that he had liked it, and why. That’s true generosity.

Maybe his compliment meant so much to me BECAUSE we don’t really know each other. Does that make sense? Of course your mom will tell you she loves your stories. And co-workers and friends. I mean, what else are they going to say? But when someone you don’t know (or barely know) makes the effort to tell you they liked your story—wow. It matters.

Readers have no idea what power they wield. One sincere compliment can make your month. (And when you’re 60,000 words into your latest novel and they all seem like crap, that compliment can help you keep butt in chair.)

So, Dear Reader, have you ever told a writer that you enjoyed her story? Why or why not? And writers, do you react differently to a compliment from someone you know, versus someone you don’t?

Oh, and if you like great short stories, check out the WMG Publishing series of anthologies. Highly recommended.