Saturday, August 20, 2016

Do I even have a writing process?????


When asked, I quickly jumped at the chance to take part in a blog series involving an author’s writing process. I was pleased to be included. It wasn’t until later I found myself asking. Do I even have a writing process?

What have I done and what am I working on? 
Well, I’ve published three books and I’m working on the fourth. Surely, there is something I can contribute…

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Right now, I’m finishing a series of vampire/romances. The Blautsaugers (old Bavarian word for bloodsucker) live in Amber Heights, Missouri along the Amber River. They belong to the strongly regulated Nosferatu sect of vampires.

My vampires are essentially humans with an extra chromosome or two. These additional links on their DNA chain gives them some added umpf. They, of course, possess the vamp characteristics of blood diet, longer life, ability to mesmerize humans, extra strength, speed, and healing capabilities. Due to their extended life span, however, they mature very slowly emotionally. The vampire’s tween years start in their forties and last until they reach their majority at one hundred years of age. 

Humans have the ability to stay up all night by devising ways to function in the dark. This was accomplished with the inventions like electricity, lightbulbs, and coffee. My vampires are the same. They have the capacity to work during the day and go out into sunlight. Of course proper precautions are necessary. (Didn’t you know sunscreen and sunglasses were originally invented by vampires?)

Family dynamics and affairs of the heart remain the same whether human or vampire. And, as with all emotional beings, things are never easy. All hearts have a mind of their own.

So why do I write what I do?

I’ve always been an avid reader. While working in a medical laboratory a storyline presented itself. What would happen if a phlebotomist were turned into a vampire? She could use the lab as a means for getting blood…I sat down and began writing. A wonderful co-worker read these piecemeal chapters and constantly encouraged me to continue. However, I couldn't have stopped if I wanted to. Writing quickly became an obsession. 

By the time I stopped, I’d written a 93,000-word document. I gave several more friends thick notebooks filled with the copied pages, got their feedback, made changes...and then it all stalled. I didn’t know what to do next.

I searched out the local chapter of Romance writers in my city and attended a meeting. I planned to ask that very question: What is the next step after typing 'the end'? 

Entering the library's backroom, I found half a dozen people sitting around a circular table. Honest to goodness, they were all so pale they practically glowed in the dim light. I couldn't help but wonder if the only time they ventured outside was to attend these meetings. Or, perhaps, I'd stumbled into a coven meeting by mistake? Or were they the very vampires I'd been writing about?

Since the meeting had already started, I quietly took a seat where the head, I mean leader indicated with a friendly wave of her hand. The lone man was already in the process of handing out copies of the first chapter of his new WIP. He seemed quite excited about his new storyline. The pages, however, were received with enough indulgent comments that it became clear to me this was standard procedure. Evidently, each month the group read, critiqued, and actually edited the latest of his first chapters. From things they said, I gathered that by the time the next meeting rolled around he would have abandoned this beginning for something new.

I also learned he'd never finished anything beyond the initial chapter. Since then, I must admit, I've spent more time than probably necessary feeling bad for him, and wondering why he could never make it over the hump to complete a second chapter.

Throughout the meeting they spoke of publication as if it were the Holy Grail. Every so often I caught one of their gazes and knew I was covertly being scruitinzed. This didn't bother me as I was doing the same. Yet I couldn't imagine what they must be making of my tanned skin and the sun freckles I've accumulated, despite liberal doses of sunscreen, through hours and hours spent outdoors.  

When it was my turn, I told them about my finished novel only to be met with frank disbelief. Almost censure? "What did I mean?" One demanded with a touch of amusement. Was I actually claiming to have written an entire novel of over 90,000 words without prior experience? No short stories, poetry, magazine articles, or writing contests? 

Evidently, long ago school assignments didn't qualify.

I accepted their attitude that I hadn’t paid my dues and therefore it was quite doubtful I could get published. Thoroughly demoralized, I left feeling stupid, and as if I’d behaved presumptuously. I never went back to another meeting.

At home, the manuscript was shoved into a cardboard box where it gathered some dust as I accumulated rejections from agents and puglishers. Then I discovered the Wild Rose Press. Hesitantly, I followed their submission guidelines. To my shock, I got a call from one of their editors, and, eventually, the book was published. 

I’m leaving out the laborious tale of the lengthy time it took me to rewrite the manuscript - twice - during an extremely heavy editing process. But that’s the story of how my first novel, IT’S A WONDERFUL UNDEAD LIFE, was written and published. 

I'd like to stress the moral to this publishing quest. Have a little faith in yourself, and don't let naysayers discourage you from reaching your goals. Because I lacked self-confidence I allowed an insulary group to convince me that a book they hadn't even read wasn't worthy of publication.

There is nothing wrong with creating for your own pleasure. You don't have to be published to feel the pride of writing a book. That, in and of itself, is a major accomplishment. 

Yet, in hindsight, I believe those six, pasty-white people had forgotten this. They spoke longingly of being published but they'd become so afraid of  criticism and failure that they'd stopped trying. To them, it had become easier to never look beyond that first chapter. Why? With an unfinished work they were never faced with the hard decision of serving it up for possible rejection. 

Yet it is through constructive criticism that our writing improves. Editors and publishers aren't attacking you personally when they reject your book or ask for a rewrite. They are versed in current marketing trends and reader preferences. Use their critiques and suggestions to learn and grow your writing skills.

So how does my writing process work? I admit it's pretty haphazard. When the words are flowing, I can sit at the computer all day long. When the words stop, I go for a walk, garden, or hop on the riding mower. I've the most groomed lawn in the four-state area. Or I might flop onto the couch and stare into space, whine to anyone who will listen, and live in my head until the voices come back. 

I’ve tried outlines, timelines, and other techniques but sometimes my characters refuse to bend to my will. They are certainly a headstrong bunch. For example, I’d no idea a demon was going to pop up in my second book: VAMPIRE IN THE SCRYING GLASS 

It's been a rough couple of years for Cailey Kantor. Facing her first Christmas alone and bad financial news, she prays for an angel to fix her problems. Instead, a sadistic, sociopathic vampire, with the goal of starting a vampire war, attacks her and forces her to drink blood stolen from the Nosferatu Gabriel Blautsauger.

Gabe must complete Cailey's turning or she will die. In doing so he risks losing his yet unfound soulmate. But something about the lovely mortal speaks to his heart. Once her transformation is complete, he and Cailey find themselves embroiled in a battle that could cost them all they hold dear.

Faced with lies, abduction, and betrayal Cailey wonders if the vampire she is falling fangs over heart for is in it for love or if she's just a means to stop a war.

Blurb:  From the first moment he laid eyes on her, Rafe Blautsauger loved Morgan Maguire. Yet the lovely mortal must never know as love between human and vampire is strictly forbidden by the Nosferatu council. Unable to stop, he keeps to the shadows while protectively watching over her. Soon he begins to suspect she has secrets of her own. Hailing from a long line of witches, Morgan turned from her magic when, as a child, her first casting went horribly awry.
 Now a sequence of events set in place before her birth sends her scrambling to regain her power. Vampires and a set of malevolently glowing red eyes hunt her. 

Blurb:  Vampire Metta Blautsauger is known as the family airhead and she works hard to keep up the façade. It’s the perfect cover as she goes from dispensing her own brand of justice as a vigilante to an agent for Orcus, the Nosferatu shadow agency.
Captured, tortured, and left for dead, she is forced to leave both the agency and Lucas O’Cuinn, the mentor she’s grown to love.
For the last century she’s struggled with regret and boredom. Then her life is given new meaning when four mortal ministers ask her help in stopping a human trafficking ring. If Orcus discovers her unsanctioned involvement, they will brand her as a rogue. The penalty is death. It’s only a matter of time before Lucas arrives—stake in hand.
Lucas O’Cuinn has waited ninety-eight years for Metta’s return and he’s run out of patience. It’s time she remembers she belongs to him.

Buylinks: AmazonThe Wild Rose Press
Follow me on Facebook: REMullins


Margo Hoornstra said...

Love your process. It's much the same as mine. Hap-hazard at best, that somehow gets woven into a cohesive story. Best of luck with this series, TWRP is super. Although, don't count RWA out because of one bad experience. Our local chapter is loaded with published authors and brimming over with unconditional support.

Vonnie Davis, Author said...

I belonged to a writers' group once, too. For a while it helped me grow, then after I published, their criticisms became worse. I'd often cry on our way home. Calvin would soothe me since we went together and he knew what I'd been through that night. After 2 years of this, he said we'd had enough. He didn't think the group was doing anything for me except to bring out all my insecurities. We never went back. I haven't missed it. The group was a varied group of writers from poetry to mysteries to children's books. My romances were discounted as silly. I loved your descriptions of their appearance. I wanted to run to the mirror to see if I'm pasty white since I'm indoor all day, writing. LOL

Writers often have a lack of self-confidence. Our egos are easily bruised. We never feel our writing is good enough--at least I don't. I'm constantly driven to do better. I'm glad you kept at it. And look at the success you've had. Good for you!!! I do love a determined woman.

Rolynn Anderson said...

RE, you've hit upon two areas that get my blood boiling in a vampire kind of way ;-)
1. Poorly trained critique groups (I've even written a manual on how critical friends in the teaching profession should operated). Protocols which keep the critique positive and helpful are vital to such a group. The one you stumbled on was a critical coven...good thing you ran away from that one! I would never join a critique group that didn't have strict, enforced protocols which nurtured enthusiastic writers.

2. The habit people have of denigrating a genre they don't happen to like. We're allowed to read and enjoy whatever music, literature, art we wish (as long as no one is hurt/subjugated in the process, of course). Recently I attended a Left Coast Crime event where a bunch of men turned up their noses at the romantic suspense category. No wonder I am more comfortable in Sisters of Crime, my local group.

We write what we like to write...and read. Why can't people let us alone to do that? Boggles my mind.

Good luck with your clever vampire books. Bloody good fun!

Brenda Whiteside said...

It is a process until published, isn't it? But you and Vonnie both had bad experiences with crit groups. Mine is the opposite experience. I credit mine with helping me to publish. My first was many years ago, a group of unpublished novices that supported, but also knew how to critique. That group eventually splintered and I moved on. My current groups I've had for years. I say groups...I actually have 3. Two are on-line now since I've moved out of state and one is local. Interesting post, RE.

Barbara Edwards said...

Thanks for sharing. I love learning how otheres work through the process.

Leah St. James said...

Love this, RE! First, I think I'm heading to Amazon to send my sister the first of your vampire stories. They sound right up her alley! (Er...although I should ask, is here a lot of s-*-x? If so, she might have to skip those pages!)

Second, I echo what everyone has said about the harm a bad writing group can do. You were so smart to trust your instincts! (Love the description of the pale-faced members sitting around the table!) I was a member of RWA/Virginia Romance Writers and now Sisters in Crime (national and local), but the meetings are too far for me to attend very regularly. What I love most about the groups is the friendships I've developed. Writers get other writers like other people don't.

One of the main things, I think, to look for in a critique group and/or partner is one where the skills and level of experience are similar to yours. You want to be able to give to others, of course, but you also want to get the benefit of others' expertise.

Great post!

Andrea Downing said...

RE, your description of the critique group and Vonnie's comments are the very reasons I've never joined one. Rolynn is correct in saying, IMHO, they are poorly 'trained'. Glad you got past that and got published!

Jannine Gallant said...

The last critique groups I was in were my creative writing classes in college 30 plus years ago. Looking back at my short stories written during that time, I realize we were all probably pretty horrible, but I don't remember being traumatized by the criticism. I've never belonged to a group since, except for my online CP, Margo. I have a fairly thick skin, though, so her comments only make me wince a little. Unlike a lot of writers plagued by self-doubt, I have a pretty high self-confidence level, so I bounce back from criticism. Honestly, I feel when we believe in our own talent and back it up with hard work, others will believe, too. Really interesting post!

Alicia Dean said...

Wow, interesting writing journey. Good for you, not letting a bad experience slow you down. Love your advice about naysayers. You have to have thick skin this business. I LOVE the premise of your series. I'm a vampire fan, and I always enjoy twists on the usual fare.

remullins said...

Thanks to all for the wonderful and supportive comments. The day my post aired, however, I was away from my computer for the most lovely of reasons. I spent the day chasing after 18 month-old twin girls (with the awesome help of their older brother) while their parents celebrated their wedding anniversary.

remullins said...

Leah, to answer your question about the heat level...
I think they're pretty benign as love scenes go. I certainly wouldn't rate them (and the language used)wouldn't rate erotic level. On the other hand, everyone seems to have a different viewpoint. I got a critique on my 3rd book saying the love scenes were so short and unsexy I might have well left them out.
Others have said the first book was hot. So what can I say but, yes, there are sex scenes?

You might go by my oldest son's attitude. After my first book came out he came to me to say he wanted to read my book (even though it was a romance) but couldn't handle the thought of reading sexy stuff written by his mother. I understood and made him a bookmark listing the page numbers he should skip.
I think he peeked anyway as, since then, he's read my other books without asking for a special bookmark. :)

Diane Burton said...

At first, I was going to say I couldn't believe that group of writers. But then, I remembered I knew people like that. People who couldn't get past chapter one. So sorry to read how they treated you. Our self-confidence can sure take a nose dive, can't it? I'm glad you took a chance with TWRP. I enjoyed reading about your "process." Best wishes.

Leah St. James said...

Love the bookmark idea! I might have to borrow it! :-) Thanks for the extra info, RE. And you're right, it's all relative.