Writing Process Blog Hop

Blog Hop2Blog hops are a great way to share sites and bloggers we love and to be introduced to new ones we’ll come to love. I’m honored that Diana Jackson thought of me when she needed another blogger/writer to nominate. Until now, I haven’t been able to participate because of time issues, but she made it easy to say “yes” – I could pick my own date to continue the hop.

To begin my part of this Writing Process Blog Hop, I’ll introduce you to Diana. Then I’ll answer four questions about my writing and finish with three author/bloggers who will continue the hop.

Diana JacksonDiana Jackson

Diana became a lover of the written word in her late teens, not only reading but writing stories and poems. Although a home counties of England girl – born in Surrey, grew up in Hertfordshire and now living in mid Bedfordshire – her heart has never been far from the sea. When she discovered her family roots in the Channel Islands, UK, she began an unrequited love affair, especially with Alderney and Guernsey.

Murder Now and ThenShe has published several novels, as well as the memoir of 103-year-old Norman Campbell, The Life and Demise of Norman Campbell (his chosen title!). Her Riduna Series, Riduna and Ancasta Guide Me Swiftly Home are historical fiction with strong links to the islands and to Hampshire, where her parents were brought up. Her most recent novel is a murder mystery set in the heart of Bedfordshire. A sense of place is important in all of Diana’s novels and whilst writing Murder, Now and Then she enjoyed exploring the hidden gems of this little-known county which she calls home. She was originally inspired by a 1919 unsolved murder near the village of Haynes in Bedfordshire, UK, not far from where she lives. Murder, Now and Then is a back-to-the-future novel set in 2019, written with flashbacks to 1919. A sense of family history, or family mystery, threads its way throughout the novel, thus combining many of Diana’s interests. (Her books are also available in the U.S.)

You can meet Diana at dianamj.wordpress.com where she explores the background to her novel writing and selectionsofreflections.wordpress.com, devoted to true stories of life, love and messages of hope, including guest posts and stories of her old friend Norman Campbell. You can also find her at dianamaryjackson.co.uk, @Riduna on Twitter, and Facebook.

4 Writing-Related Questions

1) What am I working on?
My fantasy novel The Last Bonekeeper is in its first draft. While it continues to percolate, I’m working on a collection of short stories in the same universe. Writing these short stories has helped me understand the Bonekeeper world I created with its people, customs, and rules that govern it all. I’m also in the process of redesigning the book cover for This New Mountain, the memoir of private investigator AJ Jackson. Casa de Snapdragon Publishing used my suggestions for the original cover two years ago, but I’ve learned a lot about cover design since then. I want to bring more movement and relevance to it now.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Though it’s a classic tale of good versus evil, I believe I have a unique world in The Last Bonekeeper – its setting, characters, and a different take on magic. For This New Mountain, I wrote the memoir in AJ Jackson’s “voice” complete with clichés and country wisdom. What sets the book apart most is AJ Jackson herself – private investigator, ex-gun dealer, former mental patient, descendant of a great Choctaw chief, and grandmother.

3) Why do I write what I do?
I love to create my own science fiction and fantasy worlds and watch my characters move about and interact within them. One of the most exciting things is to have a character step off the path I’d planned for him. When that happens, all kinds of things are revealed, such as threads I hadn’t consciously thought of, secrets a character has kept hidden, or gems that make the story fuller and complete. On the other hand, This New Mountain was a twelve-year labor of love. I wanted AJ to realize her dream of sharing her struggles and adventures in a published memoir.

4) How does your writing process work?
When I sit down to create worlds, I see characters move through their world, hear their conversations, feel their emotions, and then transfer it onto the page. I start a fiction project as a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants), usually with only a visual of the world and a few characters, and the beginnings of a story idea. After two or three chapters I know where the story is going and how it will end – that’s when I start a flexible outline. I tend to edit as I go instead of pushing through a first draft without looking back. This means it takes awhile for me to have a completed draft. By that time I’m ready to put the project aside and start on something new. That’s where I am with The Last Bonekeeper and why I’m writing the short stories. Alpha readers, beta readers, and editors are also part of the process. This New Mountain, being nonfiction, was written in a more conventional way using outlines upfront to plan the memoir. For more about how I put the memoir together, see “Writing Readable and Compelling Memoir” on Diana Jackson’s blog.

Meet Three Other Author/Bloggers

Joyce_Hertzoff_PhotoJoyce Hertzoff

Joyce was born and raised in New York City, graduating from Queens College (a part of the City University). She’s been married for 49 years and has two grown children, one daughter-in-law, two granddogs, two grandbunnies, and three grandcats.

She retired after 45 years in the scientific literature field before turning her hand to writing fiction. Her first novel The Crimson Orb, the first installment in the Crystal Odyssey fantasy series, will be released on June 17, 2014 (Phantasm Books).

The Crimson Orb Cover2Besides writing, Joyce loves to read and knit, and also crochet. She admits to watching too much TV. When her husband retired in 2008, they moved from Ohio to New Mexico. Since then, they’ve enjoyed exploring the southwestern U.S.

You can find Joyce on her website at joycehertzoffauthor.com, her blog at hertzoffjo.blogspot.com, and on Facebook. Find out more about her book at fantasybyjoycehertzoff.com.

Peter_Mallett_PhotoPeter D. Mallett

Peter lives in Virginia not far from the ocean, but he can’t quite hear the waves from his home. He’s been writing since childhood. He also enjoys drawing, photography, and helping others with their goals.

He sold his first short story in 2002 to Kid’s Ark Magazine. Later, he sold two short stories to Tyndale Kids for “The Young Believer’s Case Files,” published in 2003. He’s been blogging since September 2012 and has written articles, short stories, greeting cards, and inspirational pieces. An article he wrote for his blog in January was later included in the Southwest Writers’ Newsletter (May 2013).

On his blog, Writing in Color, Peter expresses his thoughts on writing and encouraging people who want to write better for their profession or their pleasure. Many have encouraged him, and he wants to give back. He trusts in the power of words, but more importantly he believes in people. His writing style is lighthearted and encouraging. In fact, motivation and creativity are themes he revisits often. Some posts are short (300-600 words) and some are longer (600-1200 words), but he tries to make sure none of them are longer than they need to be. He says, “I take pleasure in shooting unnecessary words.”

Here are a few of his favorite posts:
Writing: For the Love of Words
A Tribute to People
What to Do on Dark Days When Words Do Not Come

Find out more about Peter at Writing in Color. You can also find him on Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

Patricia_Woods_PhotoPatricia Woods

Patricia is a former award-winning journalist and editor. Her work appears in newspapers, regional and national magazines, academic journals and online publications. Her background also includes years as a classical pianist and organist, vocalist, choir director, and piano teacher to adults. She writes about business, personal finance, money management, small business, agribusiness, and occasionally on the arts, especially music. Working from home now, Patricia uses two ancient computers, dog-eared leather journals, scraps of paper and sometimes the cell phone. She’s been known to still employ a manual typewriter when the fancy strikes.

DeadBeforeYouKnowItShe is the author of several books including the newly released Dead Before You Know It (How to Tidy Your Personal Papers Before Your Time is Up), available at Amazon in paper and on Kindle. Dead is the first in a series of Helpful Little Books®, books that provide practical solutions to the daily problems of living in the twenty-first century world.

Writing daily in the morning and at every chance on the fly, she agrees with James Michener’s saying about writing: “I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.”

“Everyone has a story to tell and that story continues right up until we take our last breath,” she says. She believes God is the Great Storyteller, and thus we are also Storytellers by nature in the very core of our being.

Patricia lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her family and a special needs dog who is deaf. She also has an imperious cat who owns the computer keyboard and all the pens in the house. Her spare time is devoted to books, music and all types of needlework while she watches endless BBC mysteries and dramas. Despite no real soil to speak of, scorching heat, springtime hail, locust plagues, and no rain from heaven, she grows heirloom tomatoes and other vegetables.

You can find Patricia at her website patriciaawoods.com and @PatriciaAWoods on Twitter.

When Diana Jackson first tagged me for this Writing Process Blog Hop, I followed the links back to the others who came before me and found new bloggers to follow, all with a unique way to approach the writing process. I hope you’re inspired to do the same.

What are your experiences with blog hops? If you’ve never joined one, have you ever thought of starting one yourself?


Book Review: “Outlining Your Novel” by K.M. Weiland

The following book review was originally published in SouthWest Sage, December 2013, and is reprinted here by permission of the author.

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland
A Book Review by A.R. Aeby

OutliningYourNovelJ.K. Rowling spent years plotting out the Harry Potter series. J.R.R. Tolkien had the curious habit of starting over whenever he hit a snag in his writing. Earnest Hemingway had a noted love affair with the bottle that directly influenced his life and writing. And at some point each of these acclaimed writers needed to sit down and take the story that was swimming around in their head and commit it to paper. How they made it through the process with a fully fleshed out and dynamic novel only they can tell you. But it is a universal step for all writers. At some point, you as a writer will have to figure out what process works best for you to transfer the story idea from your mind and make it into an actual book. In Outlining Your Novel, Weiland provides basic tools to create a roadmap for your story to follow.

As I sat down to read Outlining Your Novel, I was ready to be told the virtues of outlining—as even the least discerning person could expect from the title. I, of course, already thought I knew the merits of this process for story creation. As an outlining fan, all I really expected was a little ego stroking with the knowledge I have been doing it right—at least this part—all along and that the whole pantsing method (basically writing from the seat of your pants) was the doom of writers the world over. Now, before you start getting all judgey, let me just say at times we all need to hang onto that one thing we get right to keep us moving forward, and the fill-in-the-blank outlining process is mine. After that everything else about my writing is kind of a crap shoot. However, Weiland had more to say about outlining than I expected. She showed me that it was more than dry Roman numerals, stark words and my usual methods. Outlining is actually a very useful tool that can be shaped to fit your own style and taste. With her suggestions even the most free-spirited writer can have focus, and we type “A” personalities can introduce a little more flexibility.

The right method for the individual writer is not a one-size-fits-all, and Weiland openly strives to help you find yours. From detailed outlines to a short reference page, mind maps to post-its on a wall, the right way to outline is what works best for you. When you sit down to outline, the idea is to be focused, but to avoid rigid adherence to the outline. Weiland advocates structure, but also makes allowances for change and organic writing to be included. The obvious benefits of preplanning include avoiding those nasty story holes, dead ends and other unsightly things that will take away from or ruin your story. The end goal of outlining is to have your story, characters, and plot fully thought out and planned so the actual writing is the easy part.

This book is very manageable at less than 200 pages, a fairly quick and easy read but still thorough. Weiland is incredibly well organized—as to be expected—with a clear, concise and straightforward writing style. I wouldn’t call this book dry or boring by any means, but just a warning: it is not written to entertain, just inform. I love that the chapters are outlined in the table of contents. She gives point-by-point explanation of different tools and approaches for customization, while providing a multitude of examples, especially from her own process as a writer. She even mentions appropriate times for pantsing, like when you get stuck. The sections interviewing other published authors on their process—such as Becky Levine, Aggie Villanueva, and John Robinson—really helped me rethink what can be improved in my own process and ways to develop the weaker areas. She also mentions some writing programs and internet tools that were new to me, and I look forward to utilizing them.

I have to say this wouldn’t be a great first how-to for writing. Having a good grasp on story construction is fairly key, and some ideas about character construction along with an actual story idea are needed before diving into the outline. I suggest giving this book a thorough reading before trying to apply it to a particular project.

K.M. Weiland is active as both a mentor to other authors and a published author. Her other writing book Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story and her website Helping Writers Become Authors are very nice accompaniments to this book. Weiland also has an instructional CD called Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration. She is a writer of speculative and historical fiction. Among her credits are A Man Called Outlaw, Behold the Dawn, and Dreamlander.

The creation process is a very individual thing. What worked for J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Earnest Hemingway probably won’t work for you—especially that whole love affair with the bottle thing. But as a writer, finding the right process for you is a crucial step to becoming an author. This process is ever evolving over the life of your career, and Outlining Your Novel will help give you new ideas and refine old ones so you can have the novel of your dreams.

AR Aeby_2A.R. Aeby received a Bachelor of Arts in history almost solely from the love of stories, even nonfiction ones. She is the author of the book review blog Whymsy Likes Books, where her goal is simply to share her passion for books. But she is a book author with the eternal hope of becoming a published book author. She lives in the deserts of New Mexico with her two young daughters and her husband of ten years. Visit her blog at http://whymsylikesbooks.blogspot.com.