Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop

In case you haven't noticed, there is a writer's game of tag going on, in which we writers answer four questions related to our writing process and current work. Today I'm It. I have been tagged by my good friend, fellow Ladies Killing Circle member, and fellow Ottawa writer Mary Jane Maffini, who is the prolific author of four wonderfully funny mystery series, including most recently the Book Collectors series which she writes with her daughter under the name Victoria Abbott.

In turn, I am tagging my friend and Type M colleague, Charlotte Hinger, who will post her blog on Type M for Murder on August 11 at www.typem4murder.blogspot.com. Charlotte is a novelist and Kansas historian who has won awards for both fiction and non-fiction. Her first novel, Come Spring, won WWA’s Medicine Pipe Bearer’s Award. Hidden Heritage, the latest mystery in her Lottie Albright series was selected as one of the Best Mysteries of 2013 by Kirkus Reviews. Her academic article “The Campaign to Organize Graham County won the Westerners International award for best article. She lives in Loveland Colorado, but still claims she never left Kansas because Colorado was once part of Kansas Territory.

You will find an amazing variety of writing styles and processes if you track down all these blogs, all proving there are no rules in this business, except "Make it good." So here is my take on the four questions:

What am I working on?

I am now about seventy five pages into the first draft of a brand new mystery series featuring a former international aid worker who is trying to find a new path after her last posting went seriously wrong. Each book will have a different setting, but this one is set on Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula, between Gros Morne National Park in the south and the wild northern tip where the Vikings first settled. The tentative title is FIRE IN THE STARS.

How does my work differ from others in my genre?

Several ways. I explore the real Canadian landscape and include social and human issues grounded in those settings. My Inspector Green series, for example, is set primarily in Ottawa with forays into other very real Canadian cities like Halifax and Montreal. But I think my unique contribution is probably my focus on the human cost of crime and suffering. As a retired psychologist, I am interested in what drives ordinary people to desperate ends, and the effect their crime has not only on themselves but on others drawn into the vortex. How are villains made, and how are heroes?

Why do I write what I do?

For me, writing is a form of catharsis, cheaper than therapy! It's a way to explore issues and people, to put all the complexity out on the page and muddle through what troubles me, hoping along the way to shed some light on the issues and create some compassion for the people caught up in it. Non-fiction can give us the facts - about PTSD, war crimes, sexual abuse, and other human struggles, but fiction goes deeper. It taps into emotional truth. If readers are touched by my books and take away from them a little more understanding and compassion, then I am happy.

How does my writing process work?

Willy nilly. I usually come up with a germ of an idea that I want to write about, and I start to research it, looking for a way in through the factual detail to a story. That idea is rather like the grain of sand in the oyster; I start to build and build around it; first of all in my imagination but as soon as I have a toehold, a couple of key characters, and a vague idea of some story twists, I begin my free-wheeling first draft. I don't know where it's going, who I'm going to meet along the way, and certainly not how it will all be resolved. Research and writing proceed in tandem as I look up what I need to along the way. Thank goodness for the internet. I also write my first draft longhand, curled up with a pen, a pad of paper, and a drink at my elbow. I've been doing that since I was 6 years old, and I don't think my writing muse would even visit if I were on the computer. The first draft ends up an unwieldy, at times disjointed and inconsistent mess, but that's what rewrites and re-rewrites are for.

1 comment:

Eileen Goudge said...

I was recently tagged in a blog roll. It was fun! And it's fun finding out about other writers' work habits. Interesting that you do your first drafts longhand. I used to do that, but I think if I tried it now I wouldn't be able to read my own handwriting. I've become so used to typing on a keyboard.