My Writing Process = Chaos!

My awesome friend and writer Tracy’s writing process blog. Enjoy!

tracycembor

This post is part of a blog tour series in which writers answer a set of four questions about their writing process, then tag other writers to keep it going the following week.

Many thanks to my good friend and fellow Atlantian MJ Pullen for tagging me! MJ has published three contemporary women’s fiction novels in a series called The Marriage Pact a group of thirty-something friends from Atlanta. You can check out her blog and current projects here, including a women’s fiction novel about what happens when a marriage is on the verge of destruction, and a fun story about a reluctant sleuth who is a single mom.

I also want to thank Gus Sanchez for also tagging me for the blog train. Gus is an eclectic guy and his writing works are equally as broad: a nonfiction book “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run”, multiple short stories, and…

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My Writing Process

A little jealous of Chris’ Bulletin Board, I have to say!

Chris Negron

Thanks to Emily Carpenter, my long-time writing and critique partner, for tagging me to take my turn on this writing process blog tour. Emily is a suspense writer represented by Amy Cloughley of Kimberley Cameron & Associates (we share the same agent). I’m continually impressed and amazed by her writing. She’s currently working on a psychological suspense about the nature of toxic love. Please keep up with her by following her blog or visiting her website. You can also connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

MY WRITING PROCESS

This post is part of a blog tour series in which writers answer a fixed set of questions about their writing and writing process, then tag other writers to take their turn the following week. Enjoy!

What am I working on?

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time on a short story set in the world of my on-submission novel…

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It’s Kind of Funny…

No sooner do I move this blog elsewhere than suddenly a bunch of new folks follow me here! It’s not that I don’t love you. I do! So much.

It’s just that I’m not going to be posting much here anymore. All the Front Matter posts will be here: http://mjpullen.com/blog/ So, please go there and sign up for the RSS feed. Then you can get your fix of writing and publishing there, along with the rest of my ramblings. Thanks!

Front Matter is moving to mjpullen.com!

Hello, writer friends!

Me in 1979, thinking of the topic for my very first blog...

Me in 1979, thinking of the topic for my very first blog…

Just a quick post to let you know that this blog will be moving to my new, improved and GORGEOUS website (http://mjpullen.com). Please feel free to visit there anytime and follow with wordpress, or click the link below to sign up for the RSS right here, right now.

If you’re interested in mostly the writing challenges and self-publishing experience, you’ll want to check out the “Writing and Publishing” category at the bottom of the column on the left. But there’s lots of other fun stuff, too.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading!


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What would you take to the basement?

tornadoTechnically, tornado season in my home state of Georgia runs from March until June. If you’ve ever lived in the Southeast, you know the reality feels more like January to October. It seems that every-other week, we’re hearing the sirens and watching the local news for indications that it’s time to hit the basement. We had exactly that experience tonight: my husband screeched into the driveway on two tires so we could bundle the kids and a fresh bag of Taco Bell down the basement, minutes ahead of the scary-dark sky.

This is far more fun in our new house, where we have a real basement with actual walls and a couch and TV. We had a picnic and the boys played while the storm passed far overhead, quickly dissipating into nothing. Our old house (where we lived until just a couple of weeks ago) had only a partial basement, which was unfinished and had windows on all sides, so our “refuge” was a tiny utility closet with a concrete floor covered in dead bugs and a couple of 200-year old plastic air fresheners on the walls. The last time we all had to go down there, we all crammed into the closet with me crouching over the baby in his car seat, trying to make his big brother as comfortable as possible in a half-unfolded camp chair while their dad and I ducked under the rough wooden shelves, listening to the weather on our phones and anxiously awaiting our release.

Whether you’re cramped in a utility closet or relaxing in subterranean luxury, however, the basic thought is the same during a potential tornado: “If we had to, we could start over. As long as we have each other, whatever gets obliterated upstairs doesn’t matter.” The danger forces you to huddle together and acknowledge, even for just a few minutes, what the most important components of your life really are. It’s not the clothes or the knick-knacks or the TV. It’s not even the books or the photos. It’s the people you love. Everything else can be replaced or at least survived.

Later, with the storm passed, I began to think tonight about how this concept can also apply to writing. I’ve been struggling with my current WIP: not knowing how to grow it from what I’ve already written, dealing with the vague sense that some things are not quite right, but hesitant to blindly butcher it…. You’ve been there.

So tonight I thought, “If I had to rescue just the bare essentials of this book, what would I keep?” Rather than trying to decide what to cut, I began to think about what to take to the proverbial basement. What about this work is so essential that I could start over with only those pieces? My plan is, in a new document, to jot down only those elements the story cannot live without, and ditch (at least temporarily) everything else. Of course it’s hard, just like starting over without the contents of my family’s home and closets would be hard.

But sometimes a fresh start can lead to great, new things – and teach you what is most valuable in the process. Sometimes forcing yourself to live without the elements you’ve accumulated over time leaves you space to write something even better, even truer to the story’s essentials. And in my experience, if you know what’s essential, anything is possible.

NaNoWriMo – How’d You Do?

It’s the first Monday of December, and all over the world, the participants of NaNoWriMo are either (a) celebrating their huge accomplishments, (b) explaining at length why they fell short of their goals, or (c) trying to pretend that they never really set out to do this crazy 50,000 word project anyway. It’s like the morning after a raging bachelor party: everyone is either trying to make it sound like it was more fun than it really was, or to distance themselves from the humiliation as much as possible.

I want to congratulate my two virtual writing buddies, Ann and Gus, who both made the goal and are Winners in the eyes of NaNoWriMo and everyone else who knows them. Awesome, guys!

As for me and the three R’s (my little group of friends here in Atlanta), we are a mixed bag. Ross, the one among us who had the least writing experience and the most ambitious energy at the outset is by far in the best shape: He made it well past 30,000 words and realized that his entire project could be completed in less than 40,000; so even though he is not in sight of the official 50K goal, going from nothing to an almost-complete novella is nothing to sneeze at.

The second R, Rob, developed an outstanding concept out of nowhere, and clocked several thousand words in the first couple of weeks. This being his first foray into creative writing in several years, I would venture to say he’s in the process of learning how long-form fiction can fit into his busy life. There’s also something extra challenging about having NO IDEA where you are going with a piece when you start. He was really brave to sit down and attempt it, and I’m hoping he will stick with the idea that formed in the coming months as it germinates and grows.

The remaining two of us abandoned our projects mid-stream, both realizing that our energies needed to go elsewhere in our writing lives (and with a household that could not stay healthy during November, I had fewer energies than usual to begin with). My friend Ryan realized he was essentially writing a prequel to the actual novel he wants to write; while I found myself lured away by a different project altogether.

Yes, I was distracted by a shiny object and, no, I’m not even all that embarrassed about it. I’ve come to respect and embrace this as part of my process. I’ve also come to realize that there is no way to say the words “part of my process” without sounding like a complete ass. And there you have it.

As of now, I don’t think I’ll be back next November. I wrote earlier about how I don’t think NaNoWriMo suits my working style at this point in life. I am, however, trying to capture the urgency and non-critical writing that comes with it. The other aspect of NaNoWriMo that is key is about making writing a priority: asking for help from partners, taking time out from other hobbies and activities, etc. I’m not someone who can put writing first every single day — at least not at this stage — but I do think it’s helpful to see how much I can accomplish when I bump it higher on my priority list.

What about you guys? Did you participate this year? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time?

NaNoWriMo – Sometimes It’s About How You DON’T Work

By the time we were halfway through November, I had already figured out I wasn’t going to make my NaNoWriMo goal. I’d paved my road to hell with plans of staying up late, getting up early, and dedicating a few kids-in-preschool days to churning out 3 to 5,000 words apiece to fill in the gaps. Starting with Day One, I was reminded about what G-d does (or the universe, if you prefer) when we plan our lives.

On the very first writing day, my littlest one came down with this weird, uncomfortable virus that comes with painful mouth sores and high fever. When he got better, his big brother came down with it, and I went from screaming, fussy infant to mushy pile of whiny three-year-old. When that was done, I had an all-day consulting project to prepare for and implement, and then a belated birthday celebration for myself to attend (not strictly necessary, you’ll say, but I beg to differ!). I’m every minute of thirty-seven, if anyone is wondering.

When the little one got sent home sick from school AGAIN three days later, I officially threw in the proverbial towel on reaching 50,000 words by the end of the month. I’m not giving up on the project itself, of course, just the absurd artificial deadline. And after talking to hubs and one of my writing buddies, I realize how things have changed for me since my first time participating in NaNoWriMo. Not only was my life different then (no kids, for example) but so was my perspective on writing.

For me, NaNoWriMo was a fun, useful experience when my main obstacle was the idea of writing. There’s a boldness of spirit required to take on, and continue, that kind of ambitious project. If you don’t think of yourself as a writer, or you can’t imagine “finding time” to write, NaNoWriMo is a wonderful way to explore ‘literary abandon’ and find out that you’re capable of more than you once believed.

But as they say in Texas, I’ve been to this rodeo before, and the idea of writing a novel doesn’t intimidate me the way it once did. I’ve finished and published two already, and they’ve been pretty well received by readers. So whether I can do it is no longer a question. How to build on past successes and make this a sustainable part of my life is the issue now. And whether I like it or not, my life is going to include sick kids and social commitments and schedule changes. I love living a ‘literary’ life, but right now I don’t have room for the ‘abandon.’

At the risk of sounding like a huge snob, I actually think I’ve outgrown NaNoWriMo a little. It’s been fun, and I’ve really enjoyed helping my buddies find their feet in the world of long-form fiction, but I think I need to find a way of incorporating what’s positive about NaNoWriMo (ambitious goals, writing without criticizing) into my life all year long. With room for life, of course. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking 5,000 words a week is more realistic for me.

What about you? If you’re NaNoWriMoing, how is it going? What are you learning about yourself as a writer? Would you do it again?