Blog Tour: My Writing Process

I’ve been invited to participate in the fabulous #MyWriting Process blog tour! Today is going to be all about process, process, process.

I was tagged to be a part of this tour by the awesome Ellar Cooper, who shared her writing process last week. Ellar is a heart-stopping writing talent. Seriously, I can’t wait for her books to be on the market! She writes young adult fiction and fantasy, and is a Dystropian from Vermont College. Be sure to read her post and peek into her brilliant mind.

And onto the tour…

MY WRITING PROCESSPeter Pan Book

What are you working on?

I’m working on a YA steampunk re-imagining of Peter Pan. There’s no magic and Peter and Hook are the heads of rival gangs that sell a hallucinogenic drug known as Fairy Dust. Wini Darling, the daughter of a bank mogul, is lured into the whimsical and artistic world of the Nevers, a secret underground artist community, in order to help her drug-addicted brother who’s been captured by Pirates. Only it’s not so easy to find her brother and leave the Nevers as she thinks.

Wini finds herself intoxicated by the no-rules artist culture of the Nevers and simultaneously mixed up in a street war between the Pirates and the Lost Boys. Then there’s that thrill-seeking, drunk-on-life Peter fellow who’s got one hell of a sweet spot for Wini Darling. Sometimes, not growing up can be a dangerous adventure.

How is your work different than others in your genre?

The tricky part about this question is I’m not sure how you might classify this book’s “genre.” It happens to be its own crazy cocktail made up of:

  • 1 part bastardization of Victorian steampunk
  • 2 parts fantasy world building
  • A ton of multi-cultural characters to keep track of (Game of Thrones style)
  • A pinch of Doctor Who influence
  • A smidgen of Robin Hood
  • A timeless gargantuan dose of never-gonna-grow-up Peter Pan
  • Two cups of hot-pink graffitti
  • A dash of Ingrid’s deliciously sensual writing
  • And some esoteric psychobabble on the importance of art…
  • Sprinkle in a little fairy dust, grab the spoon second to your left and stir straight on till morning.

So… yeah, please tell me what genre that is.

Why do you write what you do?

I only write stories that have been simmering in the back of my mind for a long time.  This one’s been cooking for at least 5 years (maybe longer if I’m honest). I write the stories that I can’t seem to forget. I write the ones that have some emotional nugget in them that keeps twirling itself over and over in my brain and whispering: explore me, write me, there’s a truth in here and it’s waiting for you to find it.

I suppose those are the stories worth telling: the ones that haunt you, the ones that demand your heart.

68701d459c1e0ce432536991c6835b8eHow does your writing process work?

My writing process is a daily, hourly, weekly, yearly exploration of the demands and needs of each individual project. And the needs of each novel (like all the relationships in one’s life) are different.

This book demands immersion. She demands focus for hours at a time. And I’m not talking half-assed freewriting or NaNoWriMo first draft word-puke. This novel wants my blood (kind of like Captain Hook). This novel is a jealous and fickle girl too. She hates it when I look at other projects or I divide my attention with puny necessities like food or sleep. This book wants all of me.

I do the best I can to keep myself immersed in this novel as much as I can (because she likes to hole up and shut me out for weeks if I’m not diligent). I keep an extensive Pinterest page for this novel to make sure my imagination is constantly exploring this world visually. I steal words from other books that sound like they might fit the voice of my novel. I try morning writing where I focus on a detail: the view outside Peter’s window, the color of a mermaid’s hair. Sometimes that detail grows into a scene. Sometimes it’s just drivel. The goal is to keep my mind exploring the story every day.

I do the hefty writing on the weekends. I set aside large chunks of hours and get lost. Immersion. I go to Neverland in my mind and I’m there all day. This book is not a vomit-first draft. It can’t be. I have to spend too much time figuring out who these characters are and their motivations. I can’t skim the surface with them. Instead I dig in and write a scene, then re-write the scene, re-position the scene, re-word the scene, re-everything until I find an emotional heartbeat in it. This isn’t a fast process. But it’s a heartfelt one.

The process for writing every novel is different. For this one … slow and steady wins the race.

May the Tour Continue!

If you enjoyed this little glimpse into the writer’s life, please follow the tour as I pass the torch to Amy Sundberg (my sister in last name, but not by blood) who will share her dazzling process next week!

Amy Sundberg is a SF/F and YA writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Redstone Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, and Buzzy Magazine, among others. She lives in California, and when not writing, she’s either buried in a good book, singing musical theater songs, or trying to add more pins to locations visited on her world map. She is an avid blogger at practicalfreespirit.com and can be found on Twitter as @amysundberg

Please also check out the process of my fellow Dystropians who are also posting today as part of this blog tour!

Happy writing everyone!

The Writing Gym: Open Mike Night

Last night I went to a local coffee shop’s open mike night on a complete whim. I expected to hear mumbling music, bad poetry, and caffeine induced performance art. Yes, such amateur excitement did deliver, but what I didn’t expect was for the evening to turn into a writing exercise. One after one, crazy characters kept walking through the door of the coffee house and I couldn’t help myself from jotting down a line or two about each eccentric person I saw. Before I knew it I was writing about half the people in the room.

Thinking about character introductions and making your characters pop off the page, this struck me as a great exercise in painting a picture in only a few sentences. So I invite you all to go to your local open mike nights (or just hang out at a coffee shop) and write a line or two about all the amazing and individual people you see.

The Unique and Bizarre Attendees of Jones Coffee Roaster’s Open Mike Night:

  • A sixty-year-old Salvador Dali knockoff in his brown suit and black beret, stands to the side with harmonica and guitar ready. He’s been waiting all day for his five minutes of open mike madness. Later, when the crowds have dispersed I see him rooting through the flowerpots. He digs out a succulent and tucks it in his pocket, dirt, roots, and all.
  • A bevy of twenty-something beauties pout and gossip over double soy non-fat dinner drivel.
  • Fifteen-year-old Snow White look-a-like left the dwarfs at home and brought her entourage.
  • Hurley and Jack Black’s love child sits on a brown suitcase wearing sneakers without socks and rocking a narwhal t-shirt.
  • Leopard-print head-banded brunette clutches her designer bag and wonders why her friends brought her here. Her cell phone is perched in hand, ready to dial M for Mayday.
  • A beat-box rappin’ hipster wears a mini velvet fedora and a three inch tiny tie.
  • At the mike is a cute blond with a flower barrette, sings like a sweet country Fiona Apple.
  • Stylin’ New York Nancy stirs her drink, she’s super cool and put together with her silver hoops and sideways smile.
  • At the counter is tweaker chick and her road rage boyfriend.
  • Navy blue suspenders hold up the pants of an old Chinese guru, hiding out under matching blue beanie.
  • The coffee whisperer checks the grinder and stands watch, face stern as he guards the beans.
  • Pompom tassels bounce on the purse of the type of woman who keeps your local yarn store in business.
  • Fifty-year-old mannish-Marilyn in stripped carpenter chords struts past, her hot pink bra strap peeks out from under her scalloped tee.
  • Clean cut college freshman does a double take as plane Jane transforms into a guitar goddess.
  • Long haired fisherman type surprises the crowd with a classical creation on a bowed psaltery, an odd stringed instrument that he quickly informs us all is part of the piano family.
  • A blue jelly-bean of a man rocks out on his bongos and smiles happily behind horn rimmed glasses.
  • In short shorts and white Keds, the nineteen year old stringy blond in front of me bats her eyelashes at the friend she doesn’t realize is gay.

It was quite a night! Feel free to share some of your fun character descriptions in the comments! Happy writing.

This rockin' cup chandelier was at Jones'.

The Writing Gym: Creme Brulee

A few weeks ago I made a pact to try and “work out” the writing muscle once a week. This would result in weekly postings of writing exercises, and the inevitable toning of my literary glutes! So as with most promises of exercise, I am not quite as diligent as I had first aspired. But every little bit counts. So perhaps a more realistic goal is once a month. So here is my latest writing exercise:

Writing Prompt: Free Write for 20 Minutes (or more) About Creme Brulee.

I pull out the blow torch and light the match. The flame bursts into a narrow triangle of blue as fire meets gas. The sugar bubbles with the heat as I lower the flame over the custard. The granules fuse into a perfect brulee, golden like a sheet of marmalade ice.

This is my favorite desert to make. It’s my totem. My signature. My best friend, Cherry, nicknamed me Brulee when we first started taking these pastry classes. She said I was hard on the outside, but once you crack my shell I’m a big soft inside. One crack and all the goodness pours right out. I reminded her that crème brulee should not be runny. It should be firm but light, and chilled to hold its shape. She ignored me.

Cherry doesn’t need a nickname. Her parents got it spot on from birth. Cherry’s the maraschino kind, not sour. She’s doused in syrup and so damn sweet you almost can’t stand it. But who doesn’t want a cherry on top? We all need a little sweet. Even a hard-candy Brulee like myself would spoil without her.

Our pastry teacher scowls at my hardware-store grade torch. She’s wishing I’d bought the hundred dollar diva-size mini-torches she’d recommended. But I prefer Home Depot to any Kitchen Couture boutique she’s got stock in. One look at my perfectly glazed custard and she’s got nothin’ to say anyway. It’s not the hardware that matters, it’s the technique. And my brulee is flawless.

She waddles past my oven, tucking her blouse into her skirt and showing off what the style magazines would call a muffin top. It’s when someone stuffs themselves into too tight pants and their belly runneth-over. The pencil skirt she wears is almost too perfect. It circles her thighs like a paper pastry wrapper that can’t quite hold the hearty helping of batter above. Maybe it’s appropriate, she being a pastry chef and all. You are what you eat.

Cherry’s dessert is burning. I smell the sweet evaporating to cinders before the black streak sears her orange cream.

“Poppycock!” she exclaims, tossing the ramekin on the table and taming her torch.

“You’ve got to rotate the ramekin,” I offer. “Distribute the heat.”

Cherry’s face flushes at my suggestion. “Not everyone’s a pastry princess!” she snaps. She turns away from me and takes breath, shaking her hands out like a wet dog. When she faces me again her cherry-red smile is back and apologizing.

“I’m sorry Bru.” She pouts. “You’re just so good. It’s like you were a master baker in a past life. Royal icing or praline croquets, it’s as simple as breathing for you.”

I don’t know what to say.

It’s true. Ever since I picked up a whisk I knew the exact amount of rotations to puff up a perfect meringue. I don’t even have to think about it. It’s like I have syrup in my veins and frosting on the brain. I can pour a perfect cup of flour by weight, and smell when the milk’s gone sour before opening the refrigerator. I’m sugar and spice and everything nice, with the ruby red hair and nutmeg crème skin to match. I’m baker’s fire. I’m Brulee.

And… Just For Fun…

Here’s a few images of me (Ingrid) making Creme Brulee for the first time myself:

In case you’re interested in more baking fun, I do have a baking blog! Check it out at: www.ingridcakes.blogspot.com

Now get back to writing!