Working and Writing


It’s been over three years since my last post, and what have I been doing? Working at my day job, and working hard. A four-hour-a-day commute to the Bay, three days a week, and a relatively stressful job in laboratory science with a healthcare system. Very fulfilling work that I don’t regret, but impactful on my writing–I can see that now. I’ve made progress with my WIP, but not at the rate that’s possible when I’m off.

I know that now, because I’ve taken a work break since July 2, 2018, six months to see if I can make a significant progress on my two WIP, First Flight and Two of Cups. First Flight was accepted to the prestigious Nevada Mentorship program and I’m working with the awesome author Tera Lynn Childs (Darkly Fae, Sweet Venom, Oh. My. Gods.) on a total rewrite of this YA Fantasy which includes an Avian race that co-evolved with Humans, a lethal virus, and a geeky Avian teenage girl trying to make sense of the world. It’s been fun re-imagining this story and working on it again. Two of Cups is YA Magic Realism that is in second revision, a story about a teenage girl who goes on a trip to find her past, and instead finds her future in the magic of the Tarot cards. I’ve received an honorable mention for the first pages of this WIP, and interest by agents in reading the final version. But these books need to be finished, and to finish a book, you need time.

So now that I’m working at writing, what have I learned?

  1. Writing is hard! It takes discipline to sit and write every day, to crank out words, at least for me. I’m an internal editor, so I think about the words as I write them, worrying far more about my first draft than I should. Get your words down and remember that writing is like a muscle. You must work at it. Be kind to yourself and expect that the volume of words should improve over time.
  2. Get out of the house if your words start to suffer! I don’t think you always have to leave, although I have writer friends that do. But the house can be full of nasty distractions that can keep you from your writing goals.
  3. Write whenever you want to! Okay, I’m overusing exclamation points, but I have to say I’m really enjoying writing for a non-living. If I can’t sleep, I get up and write. There are no rules to when you write. Just do it!
  4. Your “story in your head” isn’t derailed by day-job other things. When I used to work, it seemed like I would lose the string of my story. I’d forget where I was, and where I was going. This doesn’t happen anymore. It’s not like I’m living in a bubble. I still do the laundry and walk the dog. But I don’t lose where I am with Janiya and Ashe, and their emotions. Maybe because I don’t skip days in writing, even when there’s a weekend. And every evening, I feel like I have to tell my family where I am in my story, usually because I need some technical help (can you use night vision goggles in dusk?), sometimes because I want them to know I’m not binge-watching Netflix on my time off!
  5. I’m BLESSED! I know that most of the writers I know get up early in the morning, take time off, and use their weekends to hammer out their art, and I’m in a position right now that is LUXURY! And I’m having fun, fun, fun. That is until I go into the depressive ugh, writing is hard, why would anyone ever want to do this mood that all writers feel at some point. Then I up the exercise, bring out the Kahlua and ice cream, and get a good night’s sleep, and hit the keys again.

Favorite Craft Books:

  1. Emotional Craft of Fiction, Donald Maass
  2. Save the Cat, Blake Snyder
  3. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne and Dave King
  4. The Magic Words, Cheryl B. Klein
  5. The Emotional Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
  6. Dynamic Story Creation in plain English, Maxwell Alexander Drake
  7. The Plot Whisperer, Martha Alderson
  8. Beginnings, Middles, & Ends, Nancy Kress

WHAT…am I doing, writing a novel??


So I’ve mentioned before that I decided to write a novel. So what to write about? And how to do this? I had no idea what I was doing. I’ve written lots of non-fiction; I’m also a scientist, but non-fiction science papers are rather formulaic…Intro, Materials/Methods, Results, Discussion (boring).  But without a MFA, I had no idea of the nuance of fiction writing. So, like most scientists, when you don’t know anything about what you’re doing, generally you follow one of two processes: research how others do it and/or shotgun an approach that you know works.

For me, I thought about writing a book as something similar to a product. Writing a novel could be defined as a project and I know how to manage projects and know a little about product development, so that’s where I went.  What’s a novel have in common with a project?

1. Creating a novel is a finite number of tasks. It has an end.  At some point you will have a novel.  It might be really crappy, but it’s a finished product. Same with a project/product.

2. There are phases to writing a novel: 1st draft, 2nd draft, plot revision, character development and so on.  There are phases to a project: Conception/Initiation, Feasibility, Development, Validation, Commercialization. Let me describe how I’ve used these phases in my process of writing a novel.  Now, I should preface…I’m in the development phase of my current, FIRST novel, so anything after that is just a guess…an educated guess, nonetheless. So, I’ll only consider conception phase for this post.

Conception is a fun stage of product development.  Anything goes! Your imagination can create any product.  At this time, the more ideas you have, the better. The process will winnow down those ideas, but brainstorming is a great idea at this phase.  Also, for products a close connection with your customer is a good idea.  You don’t want to produce something your customers don’t want, do you?  So, my concept phase looked like this:

  • Target audience: First off, I had to decide who was my reader.  For me, I was a recent reader of Young Adult. I think this is because with my e-reader, I didn’t have to go into the children’s area of the bookstore to look for books. There’s wonderful YA out there to read. It’s fast-paced, easy reading and in the end, it’s generally about hope and happy endings. My son is a YA, reads YA, has YA friends, so it seemed like a good fit for me.
  • Value of reading: Thinking of my target audience, I decided that I should understand why I read. I kinda touched a little on this (, but decided to take it even further. I wrote all those reasons down…escape, warmth, emotions, belief in humanity, etc.  All the themes I like in books, or the emotions I feel when reading were listed out.  I don’t feel that Lou Ann is so different from anyone else that my reasons would be so different from other readers.  Also, I’ve heard that write something yoConceptu like. That made sense to me. If no one else likes your book, at least you do, right?
  • I then brainstormed my concept for this novel.  I figured with my scientific background, my strength might be science fiction, so I settled on that genre.  Every run I made for several weeks, I would think about the possibilities of this story.  I’d write it all down, using colored pens. And then I’d look those ideas over, crossing out (dumb!), adding in (awesome!), adding another question…brainstorming that question, another question would rise, more answers and on and on until a concept started oozing from the primordial goo.  I wrote it all down.  I pasted pictures that resonated with me in my book. I still have my concept book.  It’s fun to look back at all the ideas I had, and how they were distilled into something cohesive. And also nice to see how far I’ve come. (This can be especially helpful when hitting the doldrums of plot revision, rewrite and the lonely times of writing).

I think creative processes come to everyone, it’s just being open to them, and of course, what you choose to do about them once they come into your life. In my concept phase, a mentor image came out of this process. That mentor is my MC’s human boyfriend’s dad…Warren. He originally started as a gollum-like creature in a cave. Now, he’s a meditation expert in Oregon, an elder leader of his tribe.  So, needless to say, the process is a journey of change…lots of it! But one I totally recommend!