My writing process: novels vs short stories

A lot of people have different ways they tackle writing, and I suppose there are a lot of places where best practices kind of deviate. Given that, I wanted to take a minute today to talk about my writing process.

I am not a pantser. For those unfamiliar, a pantser is someone who flies by the seat of their pants. I will not go into a story without and ending in mind – mostly because I can guarantee if I do so that I will not have an ending to my story. It won’t ever get finished. This doesn’t mean that I don’t improvise, because I do, and it doesn’t mean that I know everything that’s going to happen before it does, because I don’t. My characters can still surprise me, and do. It just means I need a target to be aiming for.

What this often means in novels is that I know the ending to the book, but I may not know the middle. Most of my rewrites in novels, which can be extensive, revolve around the meat of the story. While there are exceptions, for books I focus on adding scenes and otherwise filling in gaps that affect the world-building and character development going on around the main plot points in my re-writes.

For short stories I can say that it is a little different. My short stories often spring full-formed from the page. The edits that are made are usually semantic edits – changing the wording of descriptions and actions so that they come through more clearly. Very occasionally, I will adjust a paragraph to add some missing information that will help the reader connect to the character in question. In fact, my short stories either come through with almost no edits, or don’t come through at all and must be completely rewritten, with only a couple of elements surviving – maybe the setting, or a character, or even only a paragraph that I particularly liked. It’s a very different process from my novels.

I think this comes from the fact that, for short stories, it is a lot easier to hold the whole thing in my head. A novel has too many moving parts, and so I will use outlines and charts to try to keep things straight. A curve ball can destroy this architecture, requiring weeks of reworking outlines before I can start moving forward again. By the end of the novel, I’ve changed the plot points and reorganized them several times, and so the rewriting involves dragging my characters to where they need to be for it all to make sense. But for a short story, the whole of it pops into my head pretty early and stays there. Reworking the plot isn’t necessary, and so the character takes her time revealing herself, and I’m free to focus on the craft of the sentences, the tone of her voice, on perfecting the language itself.

Either task is daunting and fun and rewarding. I am so excited to share more stories with you.

Rejection, the looming beast

Some people, when they are afraid of something, fall back on their religion, or some popular saying from their parents. I fall back on Dune.

I watched Dune first. I watched everything to do with it – all of the various movies that wandered into the house, and the Syfy (or whatever it was then) mini-series of Children of Dune. As a kid, I really enjoyed it, but I had never read the book until this past summer. I’m glad I waited, because it was such a dense book – lyrical, hefty prose curled around themes of theology and culture clash and evolution – that I don’t think I would have appreciated it as a younger person. Not because teenagers can’t appreciate deep thoughts and beautiful words, as they most certainly can. Instead, I feel like my earlier self wouldn’t have had the tools to critically analyse it. But I digress.

The thing that has always stuck to me, has always echoed in me every time I heard it is the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear. “I will not fear. Fear is the mindkiller. I will face my fear, and I will let it pass through me. When it has gone, only I will remain.”

Now I know the above is paraphrasing from the book. I can’t remember if that is how the movie adaptation quoted it or not, since it’s been years, but that is how I have always remembered it so that is the version you are getting. In any case, the point of this grave exposition is that submitting to any market is downright scary. You want so badly to succeed. If you are at an early stage in your career, you don’t go into a round of submissions with the possibility of rejection. That shit is coming. That shit is coming at you, and you will be lucky if they even tell you why. Your chances of not being rejected, of being accepted in even one market, are vanishingly low.

It can be a little hard to press forward with submitting, once you really understand that. It’s a bit like beating your fist against a concrete wall over and over. You know it’s going to hurt. You better have a real good reason for doing it.

But the thing about rejection is, it doesn’t really hurt. No one is beating you with a cane, or telling you what a terrible human you are. They are simply saying that your work is not for them. The only thing getting hurt is your ego. Without fear, you only die once. The only way to fail at submitting is to not do it. The worst thing they can say is no. Rejection does not determine your value as a human being.

So, with that said, good luck.

 

 

Oh, We’re Halfway There!

It’s that time again, folks. Time to sing the Bon Jovi song!

halfway there

This is a tradition. I will probably get tired of this song at some point, but for now, it’s what I blast when I’m celebrating my success in getting to the halfway point of a novel. It’s all downhill from here! I’m tentatively shooting for January for a publication date, but there are still a lot of moving parts so it will depend on if I can keep it together over the next three months.

I officially hit 50,000 words sometime Thursday. In celebration, I gave myself three days off of work and writing. The idea was that I would get some to-do’s struck off the list but I just ended up going to parties and baking things. Which is also fun. Look at this gorgeous blood orange tart that I made! I only ate a bite of it because by the time it came out of the oven I was too full of goat cheese and potato galette and magical pasta and salad to really dive into this, but I can testify that it was delicious. The crust is transferable to any fruit and it’s not the worst crust I’ve ever worked with, at least, so I may be making more of these as the fruit comes in over the summer. Peaches would be especially lovely, with cinnamon…yeah, I’ll definitely be making more.


I also went to a Greek gods and goddesses party as Demeter Friday night, which was tons of fun. I wish I had pictures from that event but I don’t. You’ll just have to imagine my awesome wheat braids and green toga, until I get someone to send me photos.

Oh, and Saturday was the Roanoke Author Invasion! That was a very inspiring event, it taught me a lot about the potential for marketing my books and gave me a lot of things to think about. And I found some great new books to enjoy! Generally a fun time, and again something I should have probably taken pictures at but such is life. You’ll have to imagine the amazing banners and such – or better yet come out to the next one!

That’s the news from my end. I hope you have all had a great weekend. Oh, and if you’re interested, I’ve created a Facebook group for readers of the Creation Saga which you can find here.