My Writing Process

my writing process 2 Note to my readers: This post is about my personal writing, so if you come here for the gluten free recipes and celiac banter, you can skip this and come back next week when I post a recipe for this insane GF Rainbow Birthday Cake.

gluten free rainbow cake However, if you’re curious about my “other” writing life, read on…

For weeks I’ve been reading through the many wonderful posts from the Writing Process blog tour, and now, in an exciting turn of events, I have been invited to join!

Big thanks to Kath Unsworth of Minuscule Moments of Inspiration, one of my favorite blogs, for including me on the #mywritingprocess tour. Kath is a fabulously talented illustrator and author-to-be who writes poignantly about motherhood, writing, and the magic of life. Her posts are inspiring and beautifully written. Please check out her contribution to this tour.

And now, on to me! i am a writer What am I working on?

My mind is whirling with lots of ideas right now (which is unusual for me, since I’m not really a talented multi-tasker) but mainly I’m trying to rewrite the novel I finished when I was nine months pregnant with Bunky. After she arrived three weeks early, it sat in a drawer (in various homes) for FIVE YEARS.

Yes, I know, crazy. I had been putting off reading it for, well, years. First out of necessity (hello, new colicky baby!) and then out of FEAR. I was scared that it would suck. The longer I waited, the more anxious I became.

Then, this past November I finally got the nerve to dust it off. And guess what? It SUCKED!

And … I was okay with that. Sure, there was a prickle of disappointment for a few mopey seconds until I laughed at myself. Of course it sucked. It was my first draft of my first novel. If it didn’t suck, I’d be some sort of crazy writing genius and that’s simply not the case.

I knew in that moment I had an important choice to make. I could succumb to my fear and use the manuscript as fireplace kindling, or, I could START AGAIN. I opted for the latter.

So, I’m rewriting my novel. There have been times when I wanted to chuck it out the window of our apartment (though it wouldn’t have gone far since we live on the ground floor) and give up, but I’ve muscled through. The story speaks to me. I feel a loyalty to my characters, to myself, and I’m determined to see it to the end, at the very least, the end of this new and better draft.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

This question is a tough one for me because it brings up all my old (and not so old) insecurities and fears about my ideas being unoriginal and/or mundane. Honestly, I don’t know if my work IS that much different than other novels, except that it is MINE. I write from my heart, culling old wounds and dreams for inspiration, unearthing betrayals and mistakes and lessons learned in order to write honestly. I’ve always wanted my words to affect my readers, to pull them so completely into my story that they forget the outside world, so my story becomes part of their own.

Why do I write what I do?

james baldwin quote I write fiction because that’s what makes my heart beat the fastest. It’s also what I love to read, and really, it’s what I’ve dreamed of writing my whole life. Novels, short stories. Reading fiction, escaping into fiction, is how I spent my childhood, my adolescence, and beyond. I would love to contribute my own.

But I also enjoy writing nonfiction, like blog posts and essays. I’ve written personal essays sporadically over the years, but I tend to shy away from them because they can feel too raw, too revealing. With fiction, even if it’s loosely based on my life, or something I’ve witnessed, I get to call it Fiction and automatically there is a distance. Yet, lately, I’ve been writing more personal essays because I think uncovering my own vulnerability makes me a better writer in general.

How does my writing process work?

Basically, I write when my kids are asleep or not around, which is not very often. I have a sitter that comes one morning a week, which gives me about 2.5 hours of uninterrupted time. This is my prime writing time, where I can run off to a café and disappear into my laptop.

But fortunately, I can also write during my son’s naps, because unlike his big sister who never slept more than 45 minutes at a time, his naps are wonderfully predictable and long. I am super lucky for this and try to make the most of this time (sorry to my husband for all the laundry pile-up and dirty dishes).

If I had to describe my actual “process” I think it’s a combo of instinct and continuing education. Since I started revising my novel, I have discovered some truly life/write saving blogs. I am trying to teach myself what I don’t intuitively know, which is the rather large and looming question of how to write a novel. That said, if I spent all my time reading about HOW to write, I wouldn’t get much writing done.

The true secret to being a writer is to actually WRITE.

no excuses I know it seems totally obvious, but it actually is VERY easy for writers to sabotage themselves, and one of the biggest ways is to do everything else except write.

So, when I have time to write, I try to do only that. I put my phone out of reach, I opt NOT to go online if I’m at a café, and focus solely on the task at hand, writing. If I’m at home, I gather everything I need first, like my coffee and snacks, because once I’m on a roll, I don’t want to move from my chair.

Dani Shaprio wrote an excellent book entitled, Still Writing, and there is a great section about creating a pre-writing ritual to get your brain ready to work. Drink a cup of tea, ring a bell, light a candle, take a few meditative breaths, anything repetitive that you do every time to get you in the mood, so to speak.

When I don’t have time to write, I brainstorm: on paper, on my phone, or just in my brain. The awesome part is I can do this anytime, anywhere. I love working on dialogue when I’m pushing my toddler in his stroller, or when I’m (blissfully) alone in the shower. I find it super helpful to take notes and plan out the next scene I need to work on so when it’s time I am READY to GO.

snoopy typing Now, I’m very pleased to introduce the next 3 bloggers who will be participating in the next round of the Writing Tour!

Abigail Watkins writes at www.writingwhilethekidssleep.blogspot.co.uk. Her blog first caught my eye because of its perfect name (I mean, isn’t it the truth!) and I love reading her updates about how she manages to juggle four children and work along with her writing. Here is her bio:

  • Abigail sometimes runs out of time to look in the mirror before she leaves the house, but finds time to write. She is a teacher and single mum of four, and loves to get children hooked on reading. She was discouraged from writing as a teenager, but started again five years ago, and isn’t easily put off anymore.  She has completed two novels that aren’t fit to see the light of day, and is now using the lessons she has learnt to write a new one.

I have been following Amber Strocel’s blog for years, perhaps longer than any other, never wavering in my readership, because I love her down to earth demeanor and her insightful commentary on family life and beyond. Here is her bio:

  • Amber Strocel is a dreamer, writer, green mom, student, wife and chocolate lover. She has been sharing her adventures on her blog, Strocel.com, since 2003. In her professional life she works as the Managing Editor of VancouverMom.ca. She loves connecting online, and believes that when moms join forces they can change the world (and their own lives) for the better.

Krista is one of my oldest friends, as in pre-millennial. We met at work and became fast friends/partners-in-crime in 1999. Our shared love of words inspired a website called readingdivas.com (only the homepage is active now, alas) – long before there was such thing as a “blog.” She is both literary and fantastical; her stories stretch the bounds of reality in the most fascinating of ways. I’m SO excited she agreed to join the tour! Here is her bio:

  • Krista Madsen, found online at SleepyHollowInk.com, is the mother of two young girls and the author of two weird novels (Four Corners andDegas Must Have Loved a Dancer). After five years of owning and operating a Brooklyn arts/wine lounge called Stain, she moved in 2009 to Sleepy Hollow, home of the headless horseman along the Hudson. She spent a few mad years covering all the news for a handful of local Patch.com sites, and is now in spring celebrating a return to her fictional roots, working on a short story for the first time in eons and peddling her freelance “wordsmithery.”

I hope you visit them on May 12th when they post their Writing Process posts, I know I will. Thanks for sticking around for this post! Next up, secrets of making the most sugar-tastic GF Rainbow Cake…

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14 thoughts on “My Writing Process

  1. Holy cow, look at that cake! Nice writing words to live by too! Excited to be up next, thanks for inviting.

  2. Dana I enjoyed reading about your process (awesome) and feel I got to know a bigger part of your dreams and I am here on the same journey where we can inspire each other. Look forward to hearing more about your story and that fab cake next week.

    • Thanks so much Kath! And thank you for inviting me to join this fun blog tour. It was fun to spend time thinking about my writing process 🙂 Oh, the cake is pretty insane, a total sugar bomb, but worth it for a special occasion.

  3. This was & is a very cool post! I loved reading it all,…I will come back later on for that awesome looking Gf rainbow layered cake,…it looks superb, my friend!!!’ 😀

  4. I’m having one of those weeks when I my brain keeps hitting speed bumps and I thought I’d commented on your lovely post already, but I see I didn’t! I do some of my best thinking in the shower too 🙂 Thanks for the lovely intro, too!

  5. Dana, I’ve had such fun visiting your site and dipping into posts. Loved reading about your process here and seeing the mention of Still Writing–since that’s how we connected. Happy Writing!

    • Thanks so much Cynthia! I really love your blog. I found you via the lovely Lindsey over at A Design So Vast. She reviewed “Still Writing” and I ran out to buy it. (I tried to get it from the library first, but they were too slow – and I ALSO like to write in my books!) Happy Writing to you too 🙂

  6. Pingback: Wondering About Other Writers | writing at the table

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