Monday, April 28, 2014

My Writing Process

I've been invited to be a part of a blog tour. This blog tour is where writers and authors answer questions about their writing process. My fellow Magic Spreadsheet user and A-Z Blog Challenge writer Chad Clark posted his last week. Chad A. Clark is an independent author who specializes in genre fiction, horror and science fiction in particular. You can check out his blog at

What am I working on?

I'm working on three things right now. I like having multiple things going so there's always something I can make progress on.
  • The sequel to my superhero novel (Going Through the Change, not yet published). It doesn't yet have a title. Like the first novel, the plot centers around four menopausal women who developed superpowers after using products developed by a mad scientist. This time, the mad scientist herself is the one in need of rescue. If you'd like to meet one of my characters, she can be seen in this short story (Patricia Saves the Beauty Queen) published on FreedomFiction
  • A historical fiction novel with the working title Cold Spring. It's the story of two sisters growing up in rural Kentucky in the early twentieth century. It pulls loosely from some pretty dramatic personal family history, and has strong themes of sisterhood and the changing expectations for women in America over time. 
  • A collection of short stories with the working title Shadowhill. They are all weird tales, with a sort of Twilight Zone or Ray Bradbury feel, all set in a suburban neighborhood a lot like the one I live in. So far, I have five. I've had one of them accepted for publication recently. It will come out in the inaugural issue of The New Accelerator, a magazine published for Apple's Newsstand. It's called "Lawn Wars" and features a man at war with his lawn--and a lawn at war with a man. 
On top of my works in progress, I also keep a blog. I'm usually a once-a-week-or-so poster, but I'm just finishing the A to Z blogging challenge, which had me writing a post nearly every day in April. Whew! It was fun, but I'll be happy to blog less often and have more time for what I consider my "real" work. 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write in two distinct genres.

My literary fiction (His Other Mother, unpublished--a scene can be read here; and Cold Spring, unfinished) features female characters trying to find their way in the worlds they live in, and learning to overcome the obstacles in their way. They may or may not be successful. It's the struggle that interests me, the moral ambiguities.

My speculative fiction (Going Through the Change, unpublished; its untitled sequel, unfinished; the short stories in Shadowhill) is unlike a lot of what I read elsewhere in that it features strong female characters over thirty, living in small, ordinary places. So, not urban and not young.

Why do I write what I do?

The more I write, the more I realize that writing is my therapy. It's how I deal with all my issues. I realized halfway through the writing of His Other Mother, for example, that I was working out my relationship issues and analyzing what went wrong in my first marriage. It also let me work out some of my worries about mental health and mothering. I didn't realize the depth of my issues with the American medical system until I created Dr. Liu for Going Through the Change.

So, I'd say I write what I do to deal with whatever is bothering me at the time. 

How does your writing process work?

I always write on my Apple laptop with the cool superhero decals on the keyboard while sitting at my dining room table, often with a warm drink (caffeinated or not depending on time of day). I make paper notes in bound books or pieces of scrap paper that I tack to an art banner in my dining room so I won't lose them. Novels are written in Scrivener. Short stories, poems, and essays are written in Word. 

I always begin as a pantser. I have some piece of an idea and I just sit down and write from there for a while. I write this way until I hit my first stall. That might be one scene or several chapters. 

Then, I go back and look at what I've done and think about where it could go from there. I take long walks and think. I talk to my husband, daughter, sister and mother (my favorite sounding boards for this early stage). I make a lot of charts and graphs. I do a lot of reading either of work in the same genre or of research materials that apply. 

Then, I try to write an ending. It really helps structure the rest of what I do if I know where I think this is going. Often, the ending changes between this early draft and actually arriving there in the narrative, but it still gives me a ballpark and helps keep me on track. Then, I start writing from where I left off in the first part and try to get to the ending. 

I'm a part of a writing critique group called WIP (works in progress). I joke that it should be called WHIP for the beatings they administer, but truly, they are all worth their weights in gold. We share excerpts of our works in progress, and ask questions and give reactions and advice that I find invaluable to my process. They also serves as my first round beta readers when I have a complete draft I feel good about. 

I'm a mother and a teacher, so my writing time is limited. If I can get out of school early enough, I can write from 4:00-5:00 before I have to pick up my kids from their after school stuff. If I can't, I can write from 8:00 (littlest kid's bedtime) until I fall asleep, to the extent that the teenager, dog, husband, and sad excuse for a social life allow. 

About a year ago, I committed to a daily writing habit, using a tool called the Magic Spreadsheet (you can find them on Facebook).  Basically, it's a gamification system and a support group.  You get points for meeting your daily word count, which then eventually up your level and your expected daily word count. This was vital to me finally finishing some things. I started at 250 words per day, and am now at 600 words per day as my minimum. That adds up into a substantial piece of work pretty quickly. It's been just over a year, and I've written over 300,000 words that way, one little chunk at a time. That's probably why my first novel took four years to write and the second only took about six months. 

Thanks for reading my post! You can read the posts of some of my writing friends next week: 

Holli Moncrieff is a world-traveling kickboxing writer with a taste for adventure and a great love for animals. She blogs about how to live a life less ordinary at

Marlene Moss writes young adult and middle grade novels, based in our reality, but with a fantasy or scifi twist. Her education is in physics, which, historically has given onlookers a sense of hte fantastic. She lives in Colorado and trains and compete endurance horses--which explains the title of her blog--On Writing and Riding. Her current WIP is called MIGHTY MIKE AND THE INTERGALACTIC CANDY DISPENSER and is about a boy who has to save the future of space-flight by helping an alien catalog the potential results of humans visiting other planets. Sounds boring? Each test candy gives Mike a temporary superpower!

Colin D. Smith is an unpublished writer and blogger who has written a few novels, some novellas, and a lot of flash fiction. He hopes to be in the query trenches soon with his latest story about a teenage alien stuck in Victorian London.


  1. Great range of writing challenges. I think your menopausal superheros sound adorable and kick-butt at the same time. Thanks for tagging me on this blog hop!
    Marlene at On Writing and Riding

  2. This was interesting, Samantha. I find it fascinating how we all work at writing in very different ways. Thanks for the tag! :)

  3. Thanks for the tag, Samantha. I had some fun with it (hope you don't mind).

    I'm always glad to see there's another pantser in the world. Sometimes I think I'm the only one.