One of the perks of writing being a solitary pursuit is the complete lack of accountability which accompanies it. If you're fortunate enough to have another source of income, that is. Which I do. Writing doesn't make me much money, and it likely never will. So, to help support my family, I'm a Web & Social Media Consultant for a handful of clients, and supplement with freelance writing and editing. I do all of my work from home. My office is cluttered with books, magazines ( The New Yorker and vintage issues of LIFE ), and papers full of red-ink edits. It is dusty, but organized. It's just me. Nobody is looking over my shoulder asking how I do what I do.
My friend Zoë Harris , author of The Eidolon Cycle--a series of four dark fiction novels, the last of which is currently in process--tagged me to participate in the M y Writing Process Blog Tour . And as her post was customarily honest, open, pithy, and encouraging, I'm happy to join the fun.
1) What am I working on?
Different things different days. Revisions of nonfiction pieces to submit to literary magazines. New short stories, including some flash fiction. But the big ongoing project is my novel.
Before WWII began, the American military held several bases in the South Pacific. Army and Navy nurses--women who desired lives more exotic than the ones they knew in Depression Era middle America--were stationed on those island bases. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Air Force decimated the American Navy at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, then immediately turned and focused its wrath on the Philippines. My story follows the lives of the first American women in combat. These women have inspired my imagination for years; to be able to name them myself, to breathe new life into the dust of their legacy--courage, ingenuity, perseverance, patriotism--is an honor.
As yet untitled, I flew through the first draft during NaNoWriMo 2013 , but it's been difficult to come back to it since then. I've got 100,000 words, and no final chapter(s).
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Time for a confession. I'm a bit anti-genre. I think genre pigeon-holes a book. And since my goal is to write fine literature, I try to throw off the confines of genre, in this case historical fiction, any way I can. As I write, my novel is a novel alone.
What am I avoiding? The pitfalls. The clichés. In historical fiction that means dry, fact-dense exposition. Clumsy use of dialect. Political soapboxing. Broad-brushing of cultures and social norms. Gratuitous sex scenes full of ripped corsets and heaving busts.
3) Why do I write what I do?
For me, this question must be asked twice.
Why do I write nonfiction? Because I like reading it. It's good policy for a writer to create art she would enjoy herself. I like the truth. I like the universality of the simple things, and how complex we all make those simple things. And the view out my window in Norway is still exotic enough to me that I want to share it.
Why do I write fiction? I am inhabited by spirits, angels, demons, ghosts. They've spoken to me and through me since I was a child. The older I get, the more I have lived, the better vessel I am for their words. When it comes to writing stories, I have no choice.
4) How does your writing process work?
It works like this: Before anything else, I write. I march from my bedroom to my office, take a seat and bleed onto the page .
Hah. I'm kidding. I mean, that IS what works. It's how I manhandled NaNoWriMo 2013. But I have a hard time maintaining that grind.
This is how my writing life looks, normally: Every day I wake up and move around my house and eat something and look out my windows at the sky. I check my email, Facebook, Twitter, and if there's something there which piques my interest, I respond in writing. My best blog posts seem to spring from those moments, when I'm writing to someone I care for about something that touches my heart.
Then I work for money. It takes a few hours each day. It's not my passion, but I have learned to enjoy it.
When I work like this, there is no daily average of time spent on my personal work. Because when I'm not disciplined, I turn into a binge-writer, which looks something like this:
One morning, unexpectedly, as I stand at the window and look at the sky, I feel a hand in mine. The muse. Her fingers are warm. She pulls me away from the window and into my office, pushes me into the chair, sits down in my lap. I lose everything else. It's hard to breathe. Too much story. She has the same puzzlingly hazel eyes as me. Maybe for some people the muse is someone else, but for me she's the best, most honest version of myself. We hold onto each other and I lose everything else. I'm not thinking; it's a fever. When she breathes out, I breathe in. All day.
I mean that literally. On these days, I don't shower, I don't dress, I don't brush my teeth. I don't eat or drink. The fever breaks when I hear Jonathan's key in the door. My muse evaporates. Left behind is the heady fragrance of passion and imagination and thousands of words ripe for revision in the days that follow. All that's left for me is to pass through those days the normal way, the less personally productive way, and wait for the muse to find me again.
And this, my friends, concludes our tour of Audrey's Writing Process. Next up are three of my fellow Lesley MFA graduates:
Jorge Armenteros , a graduate of Harvard University and a practicing psychiatrist. His debut novel, The Book of I , is forthcoming from Jaded Ibis Press in Fall 2014.
Sabrina Fedel , an attorney who writes stories for young people.
Hope you enjoy what they have to say about their respective writing processes next week, too!
Thought I'd close with this more interesting and more succinct explanation of a writing process than mine, from a writer I admire:
I always begin with a character: a character to whom I introduce the reader, so that the reader will enter the novel feeling as if he or she already has a friend... or at least someone to care about.
But very quickly I let the reader know that they have to worry a bit about this new friend, because something is slightly [ amiss ? askew ? out-of-whack ?] and the book character is going to have to find a way to set things right.
That starts the plot going.
-- Lois Lowry