Thank you to Caitlin Sinead Jennings for inviting me to be part of the #MyWritingProcess blog tour. She’s a regular contributor to Trouble the Write Way; her impressive writing process involves Trello and guideposts from Story Engineering.
If you haven’t heard of #MyWritingProcess, it’s a sort of blog-posting chain letter in which authors all answer the same four questions about their writing. Here we go!
What am I working on?
As always, I have a few irons in the fire. I’m working with my fantastic agent on some things we’ll need when we begin submitting THE ROGUE RETRIEVAL. We’ve made some minor revisions already (before signing), so now it’s mostly fine-tuning.
My work-in-progress is a young adult fantasy novel I’m calling THE NON-MAGICIAN. It’s my second novel, and in the throes of a heavy revision. But I think there’s a lot of promise, so stay tuned.
Lastly, I had the idea to write a short story in Alissia, the world where most of The Rogue Retrieval takes place. It’s a medieval heist story, sort of like Ocean’s Eleven in King Arthur’s Court. I hope to have a draft out to my critique group relatively soon.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I like to think of The Rogue Retrieval as a gateway fantasy, for a couple of reasons. First, there’s literally a gateway that connects a tiny island in the South Pacific to another world, one the inhabitants call Alissia. By chance, the portal fell into the hands of a large and powerful corporation. For fifteen years, company researchers have studied everything about the medieval world, all while the executives make quiet plans to systematically exploit it for financial gain.
The Rogue Retrieval may also be a gateway fantasy that brings more readers into the fantasy genre. Let’s be honest, epic fantasy can be intimidating. Some of the books are 900 pages, and there might be nine or ten in a series that’s still going on. It can be hard to start reading, because the worlds are usually not our own. My book goes into a fantasy world, true, but it starts in Vegas. It’s a fast-paced thriller, under 100K words, and I think anyone who likes Michael Crichton or Tom Clancy will enjoy it. Even if they’re not fantasy fans.
Why do I write what I do?
I grew up reading fantasy. When I wanted to start writing, the choice seemed obvious. Later I got into science fiction because I work as a scientist for my day job. The Rogue Retrieval was my chance to combine the two, with a story about a retrieval team sent from our modern world into a medieval one.
Why fantasy at all? I think it’s about escapism. The real world can be a rough place. I get away from it when I can — I take my bow and stalk off into the woods — but sometimes you do want to get away to a place like Middle Earth or Midkemia or Camorr.
How does my writing process work?
Here are the key points to my writing process:
- Finding time. I generally write before and after work; I do some of my best plotting while on the road. I write best under pressure, so there’s no time when I get more words on paper than November (during National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo).
- Planning. I’m a pantser, not an outliner, so I usually have a rough idea of how a story starts and ends, but little else, when I jump into a new project. Theoretically, this means the writing comes easier but I’ll have more revisions and cutting to do at the end.
- Writing. I write in Scrivener, and use its built-in templates for short stories and novels. There’s a true full-screen mode that blacks out everything but the editor — all the Google searches and social media and e-mail clients — so that you can just focus on writing. At other times, I take it old school with a writing notebook and heavy-ink pen.
- Revision. They say it’s good to let your first draft sit a while before revising, and I do try to do that. If I have a major revision to do — something I haven’t touched in a year or more, and that needs a major overhaul — I might rewrite the whole thing in a separate Scrivener project. More often, I go through the whole draft (on my Kindle) and make lots of notes, then go back.
My process is an evolving animal. For example, I’ve recently been experimenting with Scapple, a free-form idea mapping tool from MacHeist.
Meet Some of My Writing Friends
Next Monday, I’ll pass the #MyWritingProcess blog torch to three of my author friends. Dan Bensen is my agency brother whose entertaining Kingdoms of Evil podcast is now on iTunes. Diana Urban wowed me with her pitch during January’s #PitMad and was unsurprisingly signed by an agent soon after. I met Shawn Keenan in the query trenches and loved the fact that his blog has a huge picture of an old castle at the top.
Daniel M. Bensen was born in Chicago and has since lived in Maine, California, Montana, Japan, and Boston. He currently lives with his wife, daughter, and in-laws in Bulgaria, where he teaches English as a second language.
Dan writes stories across the spectrum of fantasy, sci-fi, and alternate history, but all have to do with humor, romance, and clashing cultures. He is represented by Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary Agency. His podcast, where he interviews other authors, artists, and other creative types, can be found here.
Diana Urban is the author of STEALING PARIS, and is represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency. A marketer by day and author by night, Diana is the Head of Conversion Marketing at HubSpot and founder of the U Stand Out internet marketing blog. When she’s not working, writing, or blogging, Diana is an avid world traveler, bookworm, and chocolate aficionado.
She lives for the next time she’ll get to sip café au lait at a Parisian café, watching the locals flock past, dreaming up her next story. Originally from New York, she now lives with her husband and cat in Boston, MA. You can follow her on Twitter @DianaUrban or on her Facebook page.
Shawn Keenan is an unpublished author who blogs about writing, querying, and crying on his site Errant Author. He has completed three YA manuscripts, each coming heartbreakingly closer to publication than the last.
His day job is so excruciatingly boring, it isn’t safe to describe it in text form. He has kids, he has dogs, he has wives. What he doesn’t have at the moment is an agent. Hey, how you doin?
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Great stuff here, Dan!