Writing Process

chainRecently, I was invited to participate in an author blog chain where I answer a few questions about my book and the way I write. I’m thanking my author coach and fantasy author Lindsay Schopfer for the invitation. (Lindsay’s Amazon page for his two books – Under Two Moon’s and The Beast Hunter). Check out his blog as he discusses his writing, the classes he teaches for the PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association), and his service as an author coach. I also highly recommend checking Burnham Wycoff, who preceded Lindsay in the blog chain. Burnham is also a fantasy author.

What are you currently working on?
I am writing my first book, Nuisancer. Nuisancer is a YA dystopian story set on earth toward the end of the twenty-first century. I’ve spent two years writing the story. The story has changed and matured over the past two years. I’ve used a few different titles. I guess that is normal. This is my first real work with prose. I’ve written insult poems, lyrics, regular poetry, and more lyrics over the past 40 years. My experience with verse gives me a love for the taste and meter of language.

Currently I am working with author coach Lindsay Schopfer, and am focusing on exploring the history behind my characters, and world building. I’m ready to work through the third draft of Nuisancer, but need to understand my characters and their world before I can adequately complete this next draft.

How does your work differ from others in your genre?
I’m trying my best to make more of a social statement than a political statement. It is inevitable in dystopian stories to make some statement about governments and social structures. While I have the typical subject of a government system as the antagonist, I’m exploring more of the social impacts between differing people groups. Oh, and one of the characters is a cannibal. Not like a Louis Suarez type of cannibal, but a part-time practicing one. Not sure how that will work out.

I’m sure to be influenced a great deal by the authors I read. I hope to be influenced positively! I read across various genres, not just dystopian. I focus on the way the author tells their story and how they make it interesting enough to encourage me to read the entire book. Some of my favorite authors are: Gaiman, Murakami, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Gillian Welch, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, and Chuck Wendig. I also love poets: Theodore Roethke, James Dickey, Sharon Olds, Robert Lowell, Ted Kooser, Peter Wild, and Seamus Heaney.

Why do you write what you do?
My love of language and writing started off with a trip diary from a time my family drove from Wisconsin to California and back. I think I was 9 or 10. When I neared teenage years my friends and I exchanged insult poems, like “You are so smelly, oh it is so terrible!…it smells like your nose was stuck in the shit of a grizzly bear” We wrote over a hundred of those poems which are unfortunately lost to history now. Stupid decisions. I was also the lyric writer for my band in the 70’s, influenced by Neil Peart and Alice Cooper. What a combo. I reluctantly entered college to pursue a business career when the whole rock-n-roll thing didn’t look like a stable career. But, I did take three semesters of poetry from the wonderful Dwayne Rail. He was an awesome teacher and helped my understand why I loved writing, who to read, and how to write better. After marriage, I didn’t write much for years. Over two years ago I took a Berkleemusic distance learning class with Slam poet and coach Caroline Harvey. The class was a real motivator and encouragement. I decided to try my hand at writing a story and seeing if it could turn into a book.

The short of it is, I have to write. Writing clears my head and frees up my emotions. Creating is essential to living and breathing for me. I love music, but I’m not a good enough musician to do much creating there, though I have written some songs. Writing is something I can do on my own. It is work, but it is comfortable.

How does your writing process work?
I’m still developing my process. I started this book by writing every day. I wanted to complete 500 to 1000 words per day. I used IA Writer on my iPad, typing on the glass. This was a pain in the… But, I forced myself to learn and coordinate this method so I could write while sitting in the living room with my wife. Her love language is “presence”. In other words, not demanding, but enjoys being near the people she loves. I transitioned to writing on the weekends in my office, when everyone is sleeping, and when I got into the editing phase. I just couldn’t edit on my iPad. Nearly a year ago, I moved to Scrivener and do my writing and editing there. I’ve tried Margie Lawson’s editing technique, and still use that method occasionally.

Now I write directly in Scrivener on my PC. I write a scene at a time and don’t worry about the sequence or chapter orientation until that full draft is complete. So, I don’t write sequentially. I write which ever scene seems exciting to write that day. I do plan my list of scenes, but I don’t really plot or outline. I’m a pantser. An organized pantser. I love letting the story discover itself, and finding out how things turn out for my characters. Much the same reason I like to read. I shoot for 1,500 words per day on the weekend.

I listen to music when I write. Everything from metal to progressive rock/metal, to punk, to bluegrass, to classical. Just depends on the mood.

My favorite writing coach authors are Donald Maass and James Scott Bell. I’ve belonged to writing groups and am looking for another. I’ve had great help from professional editors/creative coaches like Barbara Varanka and Lindsay Schopfer. Input from others shortcuts my flailing about and wrong paths. 🙂

The Next in Line
I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading a little more of my writing process and why I’m a writer. Be sure to check out James Osiris Baldwin, the next author in the chain. James recently published an intense military science fiction novella Lilium. James is a world traveller, but spends a good part of the year in Seattle.

  1. “My love of language and writing started off with a trip diary from a time my family drove from Wisconsin to California and back” — You have to be the first person we have run across that charts their life in writing back to a family road trip! This just proves to parents everywhere the value of insisting on family trips. Looking forward to your new book, if it will be appropriate for tweens.

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