Immersion: The Writing Process

We each have our own writing processes, and every book demands to be written differently. While participating in the #writingprocess blog tour last month, I talked about how my current WIP has been a difficult project to wrap my brain around. I said:

“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. 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 haven’t been diligent. I’ve allowed this project to hide in the back of my mind. I’ve been avoiding it.

So after failing to immerse myself in this novel, I’ve decided to dive in 100% and go for it. There’s no time like the present. I just dropped my fiance off at the airport and he won’t be back for five days. Which means I have five days without distractions. It also means I can turn my writing studio (which happens to be in our living room) into a shrine to this project.

And that’s exactly what I’ve done. Say hello to my workspace this week:


Yup, I’ve covered the walls with all of the brainstorming I’ve done on this project: character sheets, outlines, mind-webs, questions I need to answer and more.


I’ve been working through John Truby’s 22 Steps of Story Structure:



I’ve collected setting and location images:


I’ve created character sheets with photos and lists of controlling beliefs, external goals, fears, moral needs, self revelations, and distinguishable traits.



As much as I’ve been avoiding this project … I can’t anymore. Not if I have to look at this every morning!


Lets hope this keeps me motivated!

I wish you all happy writing this week and the next. And if you have images of your work spaces, I’d love to see them!

It Got Me Thinking…

State of MindI want to share three blog posts that I can’t stop thinking about. These are posts that (like a good book) I kept mulling over days after I read them. They’ve planted seeds in my mind that keep growing and growing.

There’s a theme to these posts and it’s:


How do we write when we don’t feel like we have the time or the heart? How do we keep writing with all the fear and uncertainty? How do we find the strength to be vulnerable and put the pen to the page? I’ve been struggling with my WIP lately, and I needed to hear all of these posts. Maybe you do to.

Writing Truth and Authenticity Amidst the Noise

by Jessica Denhart

My truth today is that I am afraid. From the white-hot center of myself, I am afraid that I don’t have what it takes to make my writing good enough. I am afraid, and when I am afraid, I close my eyes to my manuscript, my words, my expression of self, my creativity, and effectively cut myself off from the one thing that I know is my authentic self. All I hear is the noise of fear and self-doubt.”

Read More…photo-of-jess1

Jessica Denhart received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in January 2013. She writes YA and middle grade fiction, contemporary with a magical-realism twist. She is also a member of the SCBWI. She currently lives in the Midwest, with longings for the taste of the salt-air, the sound of the ocean waves, and the feel of sand between her toes. Read more by Jessica on her blog Between the Shadow and the Soul.  She can be found on twitter as @jessdenhart.

Creative Input and Creative Output

by Heather Strickland

I’ve come to think of creativity as a factory. Our brains are motors: if we stop fueling them, they won’t run. Or, more truthfully, if we fuel them with crap and nonsense, they’ll run like crap and nonsense. We have to feed them something delicious, something healthy, or they won’t run the way they’re supposed to.”

Read More…

Heather StricklandHeather Strickland started writing for children when she realized she was probably never going to be an adult. She moved to Brooklyn after graduating from Vermont College of Fine Arts because she heard there was a shortage of writers in Brooklyn. Now, she likes going for walks past brownstones and peering through open windows to make up stories about the people who live in fancy apartments. Follow Heather on Twitter: @StrictlyHeather

Thoughts on Being Professional

by Amy Sundberg

“I ran across an excellent article on an economics blog I follow called “Amateurs versus Professionals.” It very much applies to what I’ve observed about writing, and I imagine it holds true for many other pursuits and professions as well … After reading this list, it occurs to me that much of the difference between an amateur and a professional is a state of mind.”

Read More…

 Amy SundbergAmy 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 and can be found on Twitter as @amysundberg


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…


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 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!

Putting Together the Puzzle: Judy Blume and the Writing Process

The amazing JUDY BLUME was a surprise guest at the 40th anniversary SCBWI Conference this summer! What a treat! She sat down with SCBWI President Lin Oliver to talk shop, and all us attendees got a little insight into the brilliant Blume and her writing process.

Judy Blume’s Thoughts on Her Writing Process:

Typewriter vs. Computer:

  • Before computers she used to write through a first draft (start to finish). She’d get the draft done. But with a computer she doesn’t do that anymore. Now she can go back and keep revising. That’s bad in her opinion. It was better before when she’d go through a whole draft first.
  • When she wrote on a typewriter she would do five drafts and then send it to her editor.

On  Writing First Drafts:

  • “I’m a terrible first draft writer! I’m a reviser!”
  • The first draft is about finding the pieces to the puzzle. The second draft is putting it together. And you go on from there.

On Revision:

  • She likes to print out and scribble all over her drafts with a pen.
  • It took her 23 drafts to write the book “Summer Sisters”. She didn’t feel like she knew what she was writing. It took her three years to write and it was so painful she said “I’m never doing this again.”
  • She says she’s never really understood the creative process, but she has enough faith (after 40 years) that it will come to her again.

On Plotting:

  • “I’m so sucky at plot! It’s not how the story comes to me.”
  • Her son says she’s the least analytical person he knows.

How to Start a Book:

  • When she gets an idea she lets it percolate for a long long time before writing.
  • She says she knows she will start a book on the day something different happens. Sometimes she has to write pages and pages and pages before that moment and the real book starts.

When You Know It’s Working:

  • “I love it when I laugh out loud. I cry a lot. If I’m writing a sexy scene and I’m not turned on it’s not working!”
  • The stuff that’s gonna work is what’s coming from deep deep inside.

Judy Blume is one of the most widely read authors of juvenile and teen fiction. Her many books include: Tiger Eyes, Are You There God It’s Me Margaret, Blubber, Forever, The Fudge Series, and Just as Long as We’re Together. Her novels have exceeded sales of 80 million and have been translated into 31 languages.