Elizabeth and I are both ROW80 participants and I thoroughly enjoyed her "Five Day Writer's Retreat" (which you can check out here: http://www.100firstdrafts.com/p/buffy-group-books.html) and found a lot of inspiration and ideas between the pages.
I will introduce the next writer in the blog tour in my next post, and without further ado, here are my answers to the four questions.
1. What Am I Currently Working On?
The major project I'm working on right now is the second draft of my fantasy novel. I've been re-reading the ms to get an overview of Plot, Character and Setting issues. I discovered several characters who were needed only for walk-on roles and I've given them too much importance. Setting is a weakness of mine. I always 'see' where the characters are in my head, but what I see often doesn't make it to the page in written form. And I've discovered some plot problems which I've been able to sort out, so that's good. On the whole, it appears my fast drafting experiment last November has definitely paid off. I've discovered a lot of material that I doubt I could have written if I hadn't been stretching myself to a 5K wordcount every day for two weeks.
As well as this second draft, I have two gothic novellas on the back burner and plans for an anthology of flash fiction tied in to the fantasy novel
2. How Does My Work Differ From Others In My Genre?
My fantasy novel features a young Irish woman who not only finds herself in a dangerous alternate reality, but discovers that she's expected to provide significant aid in a manner that she's just not equipped to do.
What I'm exploring in this novel are the themes of identity, belonging, and the nature of love.
3. Why Do I Write What I Write?
In this day and age, with our modern technology, our jetsetting around the globe, and sometimes our geographical distance from family and friends, the themes of identity and belonging and community are of great interest to me.
And my first few drawings at school always featured a couple of happy newly-weds, so it's not really surprising that I write about love! I seem to have had an interest in it for a long time. :)
4. How Does My Writing Process Work?
Right now, my writing process is a blend of a lot of different techniques I've learned over the course of the decade since I began to take my writing seriously, making more of a commitment to it.
I love storyboards and sticking on post-its of scene ideas. I like having a visual representation of my plot right there in front of my eyes, something I can stand in front of, move around and view from different angles.
Some of the most helpful resources for storyboards that I've used are Alex Sokoloff's article on the index card method and Mary Carroll Moore's You Tube tutorials on the W Plot and the Linear Storyboard. (I also highly recommend both their books, Writing Love by Alex Sokoloff, and Your Book Starts Here by Mary Carroll Moore.)
One of the main techniques I used to pre-plan and prepare for NaNo 2013 was this series of articles by the Accidental Novelist. (Scroll down to see the list of articles in the sidebar on the right.) I highly recommend them as they really helped me get into gear.
As I mentioned above, I fast drafted for NaNo 2013 and while this was incredibly difficult (you can read more about my experiences in the posts tagged fast draft), it also gave me great satisfaction. I finished a first draft in 2 weeks and I now have the building blocks in place to build a more solid novel with.
And last, but not least, Jami Gold's Planning for Pantsers workshop and her beatsheets were of immense help. (You'll find a list of her current workshops on this page.) The beatsheets kept me on track structure- and time-wise last November. She is a fantastic teacher and she has several articles about beatsheets on her blog, which you can find here, here and here.
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I'm adding in an extra little bit at the end of this section on process because I'm a SAHM with a lively, funny, wonderful, mischievous 3-year old, and this presents all kinds of interesting challenges to finding time to write.
- I've learned that I need to be completely present to whatever is going on in the moment. If I'm daydreaming about characters or plots, and wanting to be somewhere other than where I am, my little guy knows. And then the inventive attention-seeking starts.
- The best thing, I've found, is to quickly jot down my thoughts and ideas in a notebook that I always have to hand, explain to him what I'm doing and why (so he feels involved) and then get back to spending quality time with him. Childhood doesn't last forever, and right now I am building the foundations of what I hope will be a strong, loving, trusting relationship with him when he's older.
- On the other hand, it's important that he sees me follow my dreams because it encourages him to do the same. How does the saying go? "The world belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
- Acceptance is another important quality. Sometimes writing plans have to go on hold if my little guy is sick, or upset, or something unforeseen has come up at work and my husband has to do overtime. Or if I'm simply exhausted, my well is empty, and I need to relax and let it fill back up again. There's no point in wishing it were otherwise. I just have to accept it, and let go of the frustration and disappointment. Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Napthali is a resource I dip into every now and again, to remind me what it's all about.
- Finally, I've found that how I look at challenges makes a huge difference to the outcome. If I say, "Oh, I can't do that, there's no one to keep an eye on my 3 year old," then that's the end of the matter. I can't do it. But if I say, "How can I do this and have my 3 year old taken care of, too?", then I've left room for possibilities and answers. With the lack of family around to babysit, I've sometimes headed to MacDonalds to write while my little guy plays in the play area with any other kids that happen to be there. He's happy, I'm happy. :)
Essentially, my message is this: Writing with small kids is not impossible, it's just more of a challenge, but with the right mindset, the challenges can be worked through for a win-win. The only way to fail is to not try.
So, "Aim for the moon, for even if you miss, you'll still land among the stars."