Let’s Talk About Writing Process

Sherri Matthews who writes A View From My Summerhouse tagged me to write about my writing process.  She wrote about her own here. Sherri’s very welcoming blog shows her wonderful personality, her stories, and her photographs. I particularly love the way she crosses the pond by writing about her life in the UK and her experiences living in the US.Sherri

Sherri discovered her true calling to write three years while supporting her daughter through her diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome.    Since then she has had articles, poems and a short story published in magazines and two anthologies. She is writing her first book, a memoir telling the story of her three years spent with her American G.I. and the catastrophic events that changed both their lives forever. A born and bred Brit, Sherri moved to California in the mid 1980’s where she raised her three children for seventeen years.  Returning to the UK after her marriage broke up in 2003, today and happily remarried, she lives, writes and takes endless photographs in the West Country of England with her hubby, daughter, two cats and an African Land Snail called Vladimir (her daughter’s). Sherri publishes regularly on her blog, ‘A View From My Summerhouse’.

You can read about Sherri’s memoir book project here.

Writers meme

When I agreed to be tagged by Sherri, I had forgotten that I already wrote about my writing process last spring. At first I thought, why bother to think about this again. But after reading what I wrote at that time, I realized that a lot has changed. For that reason, I thought I’d think about the process again. Also, I wrote a lot about blogging at that time, but today I’ll focus on my other writing

1. What am I working on at the moment?

Last spring I was putting together my full-length poetry manuscript and working on my book-length memoir.

Since then, my poetry collection Doll God is being published by Aldrich Press. I finally started thinking of poetry beyond the book and began to write a series of poems based on old family photographs and the results of my genealogical research. Maybe I’ll collect them into a chapbook, eventually.

However, I just heard from the publisher of Doll God. Kelsay Books plans to put the book out earlier than expected! Perhaps mid-January. I’m getting excited, but I’m also getting too nervous.

I started working on short memoir pieces to send out. A chapter of my memoir was published here. Several other pieces are in various stages of completion and two have been submitted to magazines. Since I’ll be working on my memoir during my Stanford University certificate tutorial this winter, I will have to set aside the shorter pieces.

2.  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I wasn’t given this question last time. It’s a very difficult one to answer because I haven’t looked at my own work with the analytic eye necessary for that. Instead, I write by instinct, using my own individual voice, experience, and outlook. I’ve been told often enough that I’m a little bit of a nut or that my view is “idiosyncratic,” so I’m pretty sure that means that my take is a little different. But I’ve also been told that my experience resonates with others, so maybe everybody is a little different, a little “nutty.”

My memoir is a story that is specific to me and to my family, but it has commonalities with the lives of many other people. It’s an emotional history of a family.

My poetry springs from the interaction of heart and head.

3.  Why do I write what I do?

I write poetry because I love to play work with language and see a poem take shape that is more complex and rich than what I envisioned when I began.

Why memoir? Because I am writing a burdensome history out of my body. Once it is shaped on the page, I no long have to carry the burden. The more well-crafted it is, the better job I’ve done at moving away from the raw material. Additionally, I am learning (in a therapeutic sense) how to recast my history in a light that feels healing.

4.  How does my writing process work?

The process I go through is the same as it was last spring:

For prose, I write in Word, one scene at a time. When I feel that I’ve taken a scene as far as I can at that moment, I put it away and move on to another scene. But I always print out drafts, revise by hand, and then make the corrections on the computer. I revise over and over and over again, often times for several little changes each time. It’s a big tree waster, but one I can’t seem to avoid at this point in my writing. However, I do turn the pages over and re-print on the other side.

Poems sometimes start out by hand, but in general, I don’t have an affinity for writing by hand and wonder how Jane Austin ever did it.

Process also includes what I do once I’ve taken a piece as far as I can. I do like to have a trusted reader read my work. My in-person writing group–Rudri at Being Rudri and Renee at Unpacked Writer–give me great feedback on where to improve and what to rethink. I have another long-time friend who is a fabulous writer and editor who is also a fabulous reader. These women help me bring my prose to completion. I wish I had friends who were this reliable as poetry readers, but I have not been as lucky in that genre.

I would like to introduce my three  four (rules are meant to be broken) nominees who will post their responses to these four writing process questions on their blogs. 

First up is American Ellen Morris Prewitt, an award-winning fiction writer. I love her stories. She’s recorded many of them in audio format, too, and listening to her read is quite the experience. She has a southern accent and a sort of deadpan delivery. What a delectable combination! Have a listen here.

Here’s a description of Ellen’s fascinating life right from her own distinctive southern voice:

My life has been shaped by two very early events: I was born into the racism of the civil rights South, and I carry the grief of my daddy being killed by a train. Much of my writing carefully picks at the nuances of racism, and many of my stories involve the child trying to understand the space left by a missing parent. The two jobs for which I’ve been well-paid are lawyering in Jackson, Mississippi and walking the runway in Memphis. I follow my own peculiar definition of God, which led me to start a writing group of men and women who have experienced homelessness. I love all the people in my life but mostly my husband, my dog (yes, she’s a person), and my two grandbabies. I’ve been known to appear in public in costume.Ellen

Ellen blogs at www.ellenmorrisprewitt.com under the tagline “Ellen Morris Prewitt: My Very Southern Voice.  In addition to Ellen’s skillful and engaging stories, I love reading Ellen’s posts for their heart and inspiration. Her work with the homeless is so important.

###

Next up is my Canadian buddy Sue Fletcher aka Menomama3. Sue writes two blogs.  I’ve been reading her first blog since I started blogging. She’s got a great voice and wonderful sense of humor–and I think eventually she will need to start sending out her memoir pieces. What she shares on her blog are wonderful stories and observations. This is what she says about herself:

Here’s a confession: When people read and comment on something I’ve written, I am thrilled to bits. But I also blog because it feels good to explore what’s in my head and work it out through writing. In a way it’s like taking your clothes to the dry-cleaners. Inside the closet they looked kinda dingy and lost among all the dresses and blouses and skirts and slacks. But when you show them the light of day and look at them one at a time and give them a good cleaning they look all new and fresh. Just like memories.

I call myself Menomama3 because when I started blogging four years ago I was deep in the throes of menopause, and my three daughters were like hormonal pressure cookers. Release was essential and writing was the form. Better than running away from home – me, not the girls.

Anyway, there are two Menomama3 blogs. “Wuthering Bites” is poetry, photos, and a few little stories. The other, “Life in a flash”, is an assortment of whatever comes into my head during dog-walking. Then I have to bolt home and write it down before I forget. Which I suppose is also what the blogs are about. Writing memories down before I forget.

menomama

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Let’s go Down Under to meet novelist Dianne Gray.

Dianne is Australian author who lives in tropical Queensland, Australia. She has won numerous writing awards for her short stories and novels and is currently renovating an old club house she had moved to the family farm in 2012. She is currently working on three new novels which will be published in the coming months.

Dianne’s Freshly Pressed adorned blog can be found here. She blogs about her life on the family farm, as well as other aspects of daily living in rural Australia. Her resume is chockfull of book publications and writing awards.

Dianne

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Quite recently, I found Adrienne Morris’ blog. And I love it. It’s intelligent and quirky and always has something new to say about the past.

Adrienne Morris is a writer, living in the country, who milks goats, chases chickens and sometimes keeps the dogs off the table while writing books about the Weldon and Crenshaw families of Gilded Age Englewood, New Jersey. Her first novel, The House on Tenafly Road was selected as an Editors’ Choice Book by The Historical Novel Society. http://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/the-house-on-tenafly-road/

You can find her blog, Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained–Books & Writing at Middlemay Farm, here.

Adrienne MorrisEnjoy getting to know these bloggers if you don’t already read their wonderful blogs–and watch for their writing process posts!

 

43 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing goals

43 responses to “Let’s Talk About Writing Process

  1. Wow. You put a lot of thought and energy into this blog, which makes me think examining one’s own writing process yearly is a great idea — sort of like getting an annual checkup or doing one’s taxes. You learn a lot.

  2. Thanks for sharing the updated version, Luanne. Oh, you know I love Sherri and Dianne! I can’t wait to check out the other ladies.

  3. I’m happy to know that you print out your finished pieces to revise them. I love the speed with which I can write on my computer, but when it comes to revising, speed is not my friend. And, to me, words look different when they are on a sheet of page as opposed to a computer screen. It helps me to slow me down and really consider what I am doing with that word, that sentence, that paragraph.
    Thank you for the “referrals” 🙂 I look forward to checking them out.

    • That is exactly how I feel: I love the speed at which I can write with the computer, but I just cannot see all the edits and changes I need to make on the screen that I used to write the draft on. The words look completely different on the page. Plus, there is a “jarring” process of reading on the screen and then on paper and then on the screen. It’s like seeing anew each time! Enjoy the blogs, Marie!

  4. I just finished reading your chapter, Nuclear Fallout. Amazing, Luanne, truly amazing! I loved this–“darkened draperies of my mother’s silence”–among many other wonderful phrases and descriptions. Your writing is vivid and you expertly weave the present-day in with memories and more. I half-anticipated your dad to have a fit when the guide said that bomb shelters “mainly had symbolic value.” After all the work he did, and the upset to you and your family, the desperate need to keep it a secret, … I thought he would blow his top at that, but maybe he knew it already. Thank you for posting the link.

    • Marie, you don’t know how tickled I am that you read my story! And that you liked it! It’s so rewarding to have it read when I worked on it for so many years. What you say about the symbolic value comment is so interesting. Although in many ways today my dad is the same piece of work he was when I was a kid, his view of the world has changed a lot. He now looks back at the bomb shelter with some humor and thinks it was kind of silly. A few years ago he gave me the plans for the shelter (that’s how I knew how he built it) and my mother gave me her list for stocking it (the list in the story is verbatim). On my trip to Michigan we did a drive by of the house and couldn’t help but wonder about the bomb shelter. My father saw a unique thing that he did on a fence between our house and the neighbor that is still there after all these years (over 50!).

      • Oh, how interesting that he came to see the shelter as silly! I’m sure a lot of people did, although, at the time, the threat of being bombed was seemed very real. I mean, we did bomb other countries so there was no reason to think someone wouldn’t bomb us. I think it’s very cool that your parents kept the plans and lists … what a treasure, especially for the writer in you 😉

  5. You have introduced four wonderful writers here Luanne, I am so looking forward to reading their blogs. Thank you so much for your wonderful post, I really don’t feel deserving to be in such fine company, I really don’t. I found reading about your writing process enlightening and actually very encouraging as it helps me see that I’m sort of on the right track (I write in Word although I’m not editing anything at the moment, but I was thinking that when the time comes, soon I hope, I’ll print off the pages and do it by hand then correct on the computer). I read Nuclear Fallout and was mesmerised by it, your writing is brilliant in the way you capture the subtle and not so subtle nuances of your family’s interaction and especially the way you write about your dad. Absolutely fascinating and I can’t wait to read your memoir. Love your ‘what others think of writers’ too…so, so true 🙂 So excited for you about Doll God…wow Luanne, that’s coming up fast 🙂

    • Sherri, thank you so much for asking me to be part of this experience. I loved reading about your writing process and can’t wait to read those of Ellen, Sue, Dianne, and Adrienne.
      And I’m so thrilled you read “Nuclear Fallout”!! So exciting to get feedback on what is going to be part of the book. I worked on that chapter for a looooong time haha. It’s good to feel I can move on and tackle some of the other parts of the book. Thanks re Doll God, too. SO nervous!!!
      The swans in your post (words and photos) are so gorgeous. I hope readers here will go over and see what a “Swannery” is!!

  6. I love Sherri and Dianne so am looking forward to checking out the other ladies! Thank you for sharing this was us Luanne. You are a great writer and poet and I am looking forward to the release of Doll God. I’m in agreement with you I prefer typing to writing out my poems or prose.

    • Sue has a great sense of humor in her writing and I always learn something new and fascinating on Adrienne’s blog! Thank you so much for your sweet comments, Yolanda. You are a gem. I feel like I can write so much faster typing–is it that way with you? Plus, my fingers cramp up and I get annoyed at trying to write by hand.

  7. This was a fascinating peek into your process and what you’re working on Luanne, thanks for sharing.

  8. Congratulations on your poetry collection. How exciting! I haven’t read your chapter yet, but I’ve bookmarked it so I can. Looking forward to checking out these other bloggers too. Always love meeting new interesting writer/bloggers. (I also print out to revise)

    • Deborah, thank you so much. I’m pretty jazzed that it’s finally getting out there. You will love these other bloggers! So interesting to hear that I am not alone in this print to revise business. I thought I was a little odd for doing it, but I guess NOT!

  9. menomama3

    Extremely excited for your poetry to be published and to be among the first to buy your book, Luanne. I feel quite silly being included with these fine, serious writers, but I thank you for your encouragement, generosity and kindness to me as well as dozens of other bloggers and writers. It is so appreciated. Now to tackle the “writing process”! (Good grief. It could well be a work of fiction since I am totally unaware of any process!)

    • You are such a hoot–“a work of fiction.” NOT. I know you’ve already gone through a lot of stuff sifting through the memories and writing your memoir pieces, for instance. What is different about writing those than the funny stuff about your now family, especially the kids? Maybe that is one thing you could think about for process.Readers will love your blog BTW!

  10. Congratulations on Doll God, Luanne – I’m really looking forward to reading it 😀

    Thank you so much for including me in your list, I’m very flattered indeed and am looking forward to checking out the other blogs! 😉

  11. I love getting a glimpse into people’s writing processes. So much fun! When I wrote my first novel I had no idea that it was a therapeutic thing–until I read it. LOL. It’s great that you are realizing as you go.

    • Adrienne, now that is really intriguing–“I had no idea that it was a therapeutic thing–until I read it.” I really wonder if the majority of writers feel that way once they have completed a writing project.

  12. So excited about your book publication, Luanne! You’ve earned it.

    I am so grateful that I’ve had the privilege of your writing insight as a part of my life. xo

  13. Sherri is so lucky to have you give your tips on writing and how you do it. I am a visual artist. And I would love to connect with people of your level in the visual art world! Nice going, Sherri!

    • You are such a sweetie! Haha, my level. Hardly. However, I know what you mean about being able to connect with people where you both give each other what’s needed: support, ideas, critique, encouragement, etc. Are there blog groups where visual artists can share work with each? There are writing groups like that.

      • Thanks for calling me a sweetie. I am sure that there are several art groups in blogland. but I have not encountered them and maybe it is for this reason: Visual art is visual. Period. Yes, when I see an image someone has posted, I critique it. But I do not find this reciprocal. Ben Stanton is one of my favorites. His gravatar is “Hello Fig.” He is extremely talented, does collage work, much like mine, but he never says a lot. When I post an image and tag it “art”, I get a lot of “likes”, but no real comments about composition and color, etc.

        Finding this wonderful group of writers such as you and a few others, through Jill, I get all sorts of feedback on my ideas. I like that.

        Although I know very little about writing, I like reading all of your group’s posts. And I try to apply it to my own work.(If there are tips. as you know, I try to use them)

        I am sure there are some artists out there in blogland who do talk about their work, but I have not found them yet.

        And I say your level, because it is extremely hard to get a book of poetry published, and you did. That means either the marketplace is corrupt (the visual art world is full of that) and you tailored your poetry to their poor standards.Or you are good enough to be published by people you respect. I would think the latter is true.

        • Hollis, you truly make me feel very happy. But it bothers me that you haven’t been able to find artists you can trade critiques with. And it does take a hit or miss in finding the right person or persons, I have no doubt. I will keep my fingers crossed that you find some artists who are willing to “share” with other artists.

          • Luanne, I am gearing up for my solo show which happens in less than a year and a half. When I finish concrete work from my show, then I can show it on the blog, THEN there may be more of a chance to share with others and find like minded folks.In the blogworld. Don’t feel bad for me. This entire experience of having a blog and having fun with all types of people is a blast. The real question remains: Can I do my artwork and maintain the blog? Thank you for your good wishes!

            I am truly happy for you writers, who have found others in the blog world. It really isn’t connected to me, only in that, there seem to be so many levels of artists. (Maybe this is true with writers….I am sure it is) some are craftsy, some are self-taught and really not that good, and I know I may sound like a snob, but seeking people I can learn from even apart from the virtual world is tough. There is a lot of jealousy in the visual arts too. I guess this exists in your field too. A lot of folks in the art world are scenesters. Trying to get approval from gallerists. It is a mess
            ! Working in a pure sense is what I do. The absolute purist I am. Not caring if things are sold. That is the place I get the most gratification. Hope this clears it up (where I am coming from) for you. Cheers to both of us!!!!!!

  14. I agree – I have to print everything!! Over and over!

  15. Ellen Morris Prewitt

    I really appreciate being included in this group, Luanne, and to realize that I “found” Sue through you, for which I am grateful. And your “nutty” comment takes me back to our original introduction where I called you “normal.” Now I’m thinking the reason you seem normal to me is because, well, I definitely have my own “idiosyncratic” perspective. Looking forward to some quiet time when I can read the chapter.

    • Oh, that’s great re Sue! Haha, I actually thought about that “normal” comment when I wrote this about being called nutty. I have a very confused identity–part normal, part nutty ;). Thanks for participating, Ellen!

  16. I am so glad I know you, I feel like I am in the presence of genius, Luanne. I am so amazed at how detailed and distinct your thoughts are. I am much more scattered and undefined. I enjoyed reading this, shall take all the little side trips along with way, hoping to find out more about writing.
    I am also excited, beyond description, of your poetry book coming out earlier than expected, Luanne! Wow! Again, congratulations on this fine accomplishment and also, hoping for your memoir to be published in not too long of a time… hugs, Robin

    • Robin, you are such a sweetheart. Really. You always say such nice things and are such a warm person. Thank you so much re the book and the “other book.” Hah, I definitely have a busy winter ahead of me!!

  17. Pingback: About the Writing Process | Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained–Books & Writing at Middlemay Farm

  18. Congrats on your publishing date being pushed up! And yes, there are a lot of “nutty” people that can relate to you. I’m one of them!

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