Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour


You may have seen posts such as this one lately, writers discussing their writing process. It’s a good opportunity for we sequestered souls to poke our heads out and talk about what we do every day. And because the blog tour requires the passing of a figurative baton, it’s also a chance to introduce other writers we think are doing good things, often with insignificant praise or attention, from within the confines of their own sequestered place.

I was invited to the tour by David Abrams, author of the much-lauded Fobbit, a novel set in Iraq that the New York Times Book Review found “as funny, disturbing, heartbreaking and ridiculous as war itself.” You can get info about David’s novel and read his writing process post at his fabulous blog, The Quivering Pen.

Now, The Questions:

1)      What are you working on?

Right now, I’m working on keeping my sanity as all four of our kids graduate—one from middle school, three from elementary—while organizing all the social events accompanying these milestones and also, gearing up for my book’s release at the same time. Oh, you mean what am I writing? Currently, mostly articles, reviews, and posts such as this one. But in the back of my mind, in a softly lit room stocked with pillows and clean, white paper, there is a novel growing. It’s about a young woman and her changing world, and all the ways the people around her see things differently than she does. At this point, I’m mostly building characters and scenes, and thinking about what form the story will take.

2)      How does your work differ from others of its genre?

That’s an interestingly-worded question, as though you should be able to say what sets your work apart. My genre is literary fiction, which tends to focus on the inward instead of the outward, and my writing is no different. The last three things I’ve finished, though—the soon-to-be-released The Qualities of Wood, another novel, and a collection of stories—are all so different in structure and conception, that it’s hard to think of them as the same genre. I could probably write several hundred words on the problems of genre and classification and why it’s actually a very good thing that genres blur…but I won’t! Most of my writing is character-driven, with importance placed on setting and moments. That’s my genre, I guess.

3)      Why do you write what you do?

I write the kind of fiction I most like reading. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I don’t think. For me, writing is the very best type of catharsis. It starts with an idea, a connection, a character, and it’s just something I have to work out before I can be done with it. I have many bits and pieces of undeveloped ideas floating around, which isn’t pleasant! But when it all starts to come together during the writing process, there’s nothing like it. I write to make sense of the world, to make sense of myself.

4)      How does your writing process work?
Again, not an easy answer. Each project has been entirely different. TQOW was heavily outlined and planned, and the collection of stories I recently completed was not. But for novels, usually there is a long period of what I call “percolating.” I need a lot of time to think through things, to find the connections, to reason with the characters and get to know them. When I get to the actual writing phase, it’s basically in the chair, hours and hours a day. It’s exhausting, exhilarating and all-encompassing. I try to set daily goals and short-term deadlines. I keep going even if I feel like it’s all drivel. At some point with a first draft, you get to a point where you don’t even care anymore, you’ve just got to finish! Then, of course, the real work starts. And talking about all of this has made me anxious to get back to that part, the writing, the torture of it, the reward. Can’t wait!

And now I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite plugged in, writerly people. Three writers/bloggers you should know:

Katie O'Rourke is the talented author of Monsoon Season and A Long Thaw, and she's one of my favorite critique partners. She blogs at Telling Stories, and you can find more info on her and her books at Katie will post about her writing process next week on her blog.

Ashen Venema regularly posts inspirational, contemplative and endlessly interesting posts at her blog, Course of Mirrors. She recently participated in this blog tour, but I wanted to introduce her to you anyway, because you should be following her. You can read about her writing process here.

Casee Marie has one of the best bookish blogs on the web, Literary Inklings. Her reviews are always thoughtful, intelligent, and wonderfully expressed. A true booklover and someone whose reviews always get my attention. She'll post next week about her own methods.


  1. This is lovely and stimulating. I look forward to explore the sites of your writer friends. It's past midnight here and I've early morning clients, so will come back tomorrow.
    Thanks so much for including me.

  2. I loved reading through your answers, Mary. The growing novel you mentioned really struck a chord, it sounds like a marvelous seedling of a story. And I agree so much with your attitude about genres; I classify books for my new releases series and sometimes it feels just criminal to slap labels on books that clearly span different subjects and emotions. We could definitely benefit from an overhaul in classification.

    Thanks for the very kind words - I'm always thrilled to know when my reviews are appreciated, and especially when they're appreciated by someone whose work I so admire. (:


"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka