The ever-wonderful and lovely Kira Butler of KiraButler.com tagged me in her Writing Process Blog Tour post. She didn’t just tag me either; she called me “esteemed.” I might have giggled hysterically with joy. Kira is a delightfully morbid-minded gal seeking representation for her first young adult novel. She blogs on the dark, creepy, and fear-inducing, and I am so delighted she thought to tag me.
I’m a bit scatter-brained when it comes to dissecting my writing process. Writing is a solitary experience for me, as I suppose it is for most people. I don’t have a writing group, I tend to tree-branch when I speak, and let’s face it, I’m not always to best at making logical sense. I love being part of the writing community, whether by sharing my process, offering advice on upping your creep factor, or tweeting about my weird research topics. If you want to join in, read all the way down.
Let’s get started, shall we?
What Am I Working On
The Killing Type
I am currently rewriting my first book, The Killing Type. If you’ve subscribed to my blog, or followed me on Twitter, you know well my struggle with this book. I finished it in February of last year and made the foolish mistake of not letting it rest before revising it and… yes… querying. Believe me, I know the error of my ways, all learned the hard way. I was young and excitable; forgive me.
Thankfully, everyone who read and declined the book told me why. I feel lucky in that none of my rejections were form rejections. I set The Killing Type aside. I wrote something else. When I came back, I could exactly what was wrong with my draft. It was too slow. It didn’t feel like me. So I strapped it to my operating table and sliced it to bits.
The Killing Type follows Charlotte Grimly, a young woman with schizophrenia whose hallucination turn grotesque when a series of death sweep through her town. Haunted by looming shadows, corpses, and the nagging suspicion that she’s to blame, Charlotte has to prove her innocence not just to the detectives, but to herself. Charlotte has to hold her disintegrating life together long enough to figure out the answer. Too bad she’s not convinced she isn’t the killer.
Charlotte is my unreliable narrator, something I’ve wanted to write since I started my love affair with Poe in middle school. She’s very much introverted, which I spoke about in my last post. I don’t have schizophrenia, but I did have a seizure disorder most of my life. I might still, but I’m not willing test it out. I’ve gotten to write some great hallucination scenes, and I feel far more connect to her than I did in the first draft.
I’m about seven chapters/15,000 new words into the rewrite. I thought it would be easier, having already written it once, but its–quite possibly–even harder. I’m changing point of view, voice, character; I re-examined the plot line and found the gaping holes in my narrative. Bit by bit I’m attaching the organs and sinew.
I love this book. I believe in it. Polish, polish, polish.
The Mortality Vice
The Mortality Vice is the working title of the book I wrote during NaNoWriMo last year. I had the idea for it in April while at the delightful Jekyll and Hyde Club in NYC. I was sitting down with my cocktail and notebook to work on The Killing Type when Henry, the protagonist, sat down across from me and began rattling on about medical morals and the obscene new “science” overtaking his practice. It’s set in an alternate 1800s New York where things like the Frankenstein experiment and Jekyll’s split of the human sensibilities were actualized events.
Unlike The Killing Type, which is told in third-person limited, The Mortality Vice is first-person from Henry’s eyes. Originally, I formatted it as his journal, but once I finished the draft, I realized it wouldn’t work.
I powered out 8k in 12 hours (between working) in order to finish it for NaNoWriMo. I adore Henry, even though he tends to be a bit pretentious. He let me feed my desire for 19th century medical research. I threw in several allusions to my favorite New York City haunts, including Sleep No More. I finished the draft in March of this year, and it is currently waiting revisions while I work on The Killing Type. I wish I could say it was quietly waiting, but Henry hasn’t stopped nattering on at me since I met him.
I don’t really have a synopsis or a summary for this book, but I do have what I wrote for NaNoWriMo, which is probably inaccurate:
The Resurgenists are determined to raise the dead, but since energy can neither be manufactured or destroyed, what price are they paying for their answers? Henry refuses to acknowledge the Resurgenists’ theories, but a foolish bet has ensured Henry’s cooperation. Instead of setting his sights on recreating life, Henry seeks to preserve it, potentially extending it to immortality. Unfortunately, failure in his task means a headlong descent into his own grave.
I really enjoy Henry and I hope we get the chance to spend more time together.
How Does My Work Differ From Others of Its Genre
I’d like to think I can manifest that brand of psychological horror the Gothic writers possessed. This might not be true, but hey, I try. Horror isn’t about blood running up the walls or bursting from overhead pipes, rooms decorated in organs and body parts. I don’t need to cover my novel in gore to have it be scary. I like the slow creeping realization that you’re lost and you’ve no way out, that the shadow you saw flicker in the corner of your eye has been following you for days, that the door to attic has been seal for 150 years, but something is scraping along the floorboards. Maybe.
My characters have minds of their own, free will. Just because *I* want something to happen doesn’t mean it’s going to. They’re self-aware. In Charlotte’s case, she’s a fan of Hitchcock. She knows that nothing good lies in that basement and she sure as hell won’t be going it alone. Henry hates the seedy underbelly of the surgical world, but he knows he’ll have to go in anyway and hope he comes out alive.
Why Do I Write What I Do
In the words of Lydia Deetz, “I, myself, am strange and unusual.” I started young, reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and dreaming about “The Green Ribbon.” I’ve been a loyal follower of Poe’s work in middle school. I began reading Anne Rice at thirteen. My mother loves Stephen King. Horror was what I grew up with. I remember watching Fright Night with my dad, The Munsters, The Addams Family. I love cemeteries, and ghost stories. I collect antique medical bottles and equipment and read about abnormal psychology for fun.
My favorite comment is, “But you’re too nice/pretty/sweet/happy to write horror!” I’m not, but I enjoy that it unsettles people enough to say something. For me, the truth of horror lies in its reality, in the juxtaposition: the most beautiful flowers being poisonous, the prettiest creatures the deadliest. I like sitting in public places reading about murder. I like the unexpectedness of it all.
How Does My Writing Process Work?
Strap in for some full-throttle crazy.
My characters generally just show up. I wasn’t joking or making some elaborate metaphor when I told you Henry sat down at my table. He did. Physically. Well, no, not physically. Metaphysically. I saw him, spoke with him (not out loud, of course), and we got to know each other. He’s always to the right of my vision.
The same thing happened with Charlotte, but slightly skewed. I met her in college. We were given a series of rules of creative writing: No religion, no erotica, no crazy people, no gore. Then one person wrote a crazy story. Then another. After the fourth, I said “Screw this,” and wrote “The Waiting Room.” Back then, Charlotte was a split-personality of a girl named Christine. Christine’s other alter was Caroline, Charlotte’s twin, and Christine’s triplet. I worked very hard to give very little away, and the story became a hit in the class.
I decided to give Charlotte substance. She had been whispering at me for days, but I hadn’t figured she’d have a novel’s worth of story to tell. I was wrong. I listened.
Here’s the Breakdown
I’m a pantser. According to my dear brother Lucas, my lack of outlining and throwing caution to the wind is the height of black magic. I happily accept my voodoo dolls and snake charms. Surprisingly, I believe most of my friends are “white magic” outliners, but that never works for me. I can make it as far as general turning points, and then my head begins to ache and I feel like I’m dying.
The best way I can describe my process is constructing a body. I set out all my instruments (laptop, notes, reference books, tea) and all my limbs (characters, motive, plot points) and I stitch it together from the inside out. Beginnings are the hardest for me. I usually strap the head down to the table and do some cursory construction before turning my attention to the chest cavity.
I not only pants, I write out of order. Purely evil workings in this house. I write what I’m most excited about first. For Charlotte, I wrote one of her hallucinations, then worked from the ending up and connected bits as I went. With Henry, I started with the first line (“My name is Henry James William Hyde, and today I forfeit my life”) and made several “chapters” with one-word titles to fill in.
Occasionally, if you carry foxglove in your right shoe and a pinch of belladonna in your left pocket during a full moon, you can catch me acting out scenes or dialogue.
I Also Do A LOT of Things I’m Not Supposed to:
Like Kira, I research while I write. Sometimes I’ll run across something that adds another layer to my story. Recently, I read about folie a deux, or “madness shared by two.” It was just what I needed.
I talk about my progress or my hardships on social media. It helps me think through my issues and it reminds me that I have a network of friends who will offer suggestions, advice, or glittery skull photos when I’m feeling low. I try to respond to my friends when they post similar things. We’re a community. We help each other. I also spend too much time on social media…
I’m very willing to talk about what I’m writing, but I’m also a nervous wreck every five minutes. Ask Cat.
I compare myself and my work to others. I think we all do, on some base level. If it’s not our minds telling us, other people are comparing us. If my mother tells me one more time to write “the next Harry Potter” I might actually punch her. I get very depressed when I see the successes of others, though I try to put on a smile and give them my best and congratulate them. Jealousy happens. We need to move on toward our own end-game.
So Let’s Write A Book!
I don’t watch television or listen to music when writing. Sometimes I will play a song that I feel connects me to the scene, but from there on out, it’s silence. I’m usually writing long after sundown. Bring on the night!
I blog about it. Blogging makes me feel like I have control, even if I don’t.
I talk to my CPs about changes, ideas, fears. Various ways to poison people.
I read continuously. Everything I can get my hands on.
Even if I don’t end up writing, I open Scrivener every day. Some days I just don’t have the energy, and I try not to beat myself up about it.
When I do, I let myself fly and don’t look back. Sometimes the first hundred words are clawed out, but once I hit it, I’m out the gate.
My Writing Process Blog Tour: TAG YOU’RE IT
- Andrea Judy: pulp writer and fellow medical history junkie, @JudyBlackCloud
- Lucas Hargis: My white magic wielding brother, @LucasMight
- Abby Arbor: The ever-adorable and talented Abby Arbor, @AbbyTheAuthor
To participate, write a blog post next week and…
- Acknowledge the person and the site who invited you into the tour (that’d be me and you’d link back to this post.)
- Label your post as part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour.
- Answer these same four questions about your writing process in the post.
- Nominate and link to up to three people to participate who would then post their answers the week after yours.
- Let me know in the comments if you’re going to participate, so I can add your link to this post.