The Writing Process Blog Tour – My Writing Process

Thanks to Millie Ho for tagging all her followers on this!

Why Do I Write What I Do?

I’m a 90’s kid. I grew up with Disney movies, ensemble action disaster movies like Independence Day and Jurassic Park, and my mom’s profuse love for Star Wars (she has a Star Wars room in her house to this day.)

So, I like fun stories with big stakes and deep relationships between characters. A story usually has to have both elements for me to fully appreciate it. I can’t bring myself to care about all-action-no-substance flicks like Transformers. The Fast and Furious movies, on the other hand, have a HUGE amount of heart and great character chemistry. I also like watching Moulin Rouge simply to see Christian and Satine be in love; a movie that revolves around a good relationship can sway me, even if there isn’t much epic action going on.

I want to write fun commercial or genre fiction with characters you actually care about. It may be plot-driven, but that doesn’t mean the characters should be boring! If you’re not shipping all my characters together by the end of the book, I feel like I have failed. Additionally, the themes of my work usually have to do with science, space, or religion. That’s just a general statement, and the basis of my blog title “Aether House.”

How Does Your Writing Process Work?

1. Have an idea. Let it stew in my mind or a year or more. Paradisa stewed for 4. “Shannon-verse” has been stewing for 19. My short story Goliath stewed for about 10 months.

2. Decide on a project. I’ve got a masterlist of about 80 ideas, with about 10 that are favorites, and it’s often a process just picking one.

3. Research, character design, world building, etc etc. All that fun stuff to work out who I’m writing about.

4. Outline the book. REALLY outline. Most of my book have a 10k-20k word treatment that breaks down every chapter, every conversation, etc. It’s like a miniature first draft. I am not a “pantser.” Writing without a plan is miserable to me.

5. Analyze and revise the outline. When it’s happy, begin writing!

6. Write the first draft in 1-2 months.

7. Revise for a year or more, doing at least eight drafts and three rounds of beta readers. At least one of those rounds will be copyeditors, and at least one will be strangers. I’ll usually start on a 2nd book during this time, because I’ll have down time during those reading periods.

8. Profit?

What Am I Working On?

My novel Paradisa is on its fourth draft. Paradisa follows a half-Iranian half-Irish chef named Connor Bishara, who’s lived on autopilot since DADT discharged him from Navy SEALs. His only joy comes from supporting his much younger sister, Clara, as she pursues an engineering degree.

On the very first page, their car hits a pedestrian that is definitely not human – it’s a Spectre, or a strange new creature that gods nor angels can explain. Without giving too much away, I’ll say that their near-miss with a Spectre entangles their lives with the archangel Raphael, as well as the Greek gods Hephaestus and Aphrodite, who reveal that *all* mythology is real. Unfortunately, even the pantheons of the world are not strong enough to defeat the demonic threat hovering over Earth…but with Connor and Clara’s help, perhaps they could be.

How Does My Work Differ From Others In Its Genre?

I write human protagonists. Not elves/vampires/half-chimeras. My secondary characters have extraordinary abilities, but the story is told from the eyes of humans. One issue I take with most fantasy is that the leads are all magical, or half-magic/half-human, as a way to give them great power while still making them relatable. But I like to take the Doctor Who approach – I write about the ordinary human companions of someone extraordinary, and show why the powerful person and the human person can be equally useful and strong. I don’t go for prophecies, “chosen ones,” or any sort of destiny that points towards my humans being ‘special.’ They get thrust into the supernatural world due to circumstances beyond their control, but they’re ultimately the ones who choose this life.

Now fly, my pretties! I tag all of you!

7 thoughts on “The Writing Process Blog Tour – My Writing Process

    • Definitely not! Probably not going to be ready for agents until next March at the earliest. My first draft was written for NaNoWriMo (although it ended up taking November and January). Second draft took 2-3 months of pretty massive structural rewrites. Third draft was less intense – mostly beefing up certain scenes, fixing hooks, etc. Fourth draft became a quick polish before I sent it to betas.

      While my beta response has been pleasant so far, there are still some difficult challenges of character and plot – my antagonists are still so muddled and my characters still too self conscious – that need to be tackled. I anticipate a month of serious narrative edits, followed by a beta round of strangers. Then a month or two of line edits/nitpicky voice corrections before a beta read by copy editors. If it’s ready by then, great! If it’s still got problems, I’ll be wailing on it some more. I anticipate about 8-10 drafts before it’s agent ready.

      Heh, long answer! My apologies. But I basically want this thing ready to be on a bookshelf before I query. Agents seem to expect that, and while agents and editors will obviously want to change things no matter what, I at least want to show the effort of having polished the story well.

      • Well, that sounds like a plan. I’m sort of new to the whole “novel-length” project. Sure, I’ve written 50k words out of a novel during NaNoWriMo, but I never really aimed to create a “finished” product. That’s where I’m right now. So, hearing you are doing so many revisions makes me wonder about my future. I can only hope that it’s ready by its 10th iteration myself.

        Anyway, I was just curious about your process, mostly because of one of the common things I always heard from teachers: “Sometimes you just have to let the story go. Too much revision is not always good.” But you are the artist, so it’s up to you.

        I sincerely hope that it works out for you (even if it means competition for me in the future)! I’ll be keeping an eye at your updates :)

      • This is my first time too, so I could totally be off base! Ha, this is a learning process for sure. I decided that I was ready for beta readers when I knew the book was flawed, but I had fixed all I knew to fix. It was also when I realized that I couldn’t keep track of what characters knew at any point, because *I* knew the entire plot so well.

        Once I finish this planned process, I think I’ll know when it’s agent ready because my only edits will be internal struggles over whether to use “she sighed” vs “she exhaled.” At that point, you’re doing more harm than good. It’s important not to overedit, as you said! At the same time, I’d hate to get rejected just because the manuscript wasn’t ready yet. When I start my line edits, overediting is deff something to be careful about though.

        10 drafts seems crazy, but 1) you will *want* to fix the problems in your book it’s a premise you’re invested in, and 2) I never do total rewrites. I never just toss the first draft aside and write it over from scratch. Some writers do, but…ugh. God. How miserable. I make margin comments in Word and knock them out one by one. It’s not too intimidating. Promise ;) Not to mention, your book could be done in three drafts! Every story is different and so is every writer :)

      • Yeah, I get you. I’m always like that with short stories, which is why I write for my blog. It forces me not to revise and move on. It pretty much serves as blinders so that I just look forward.

        Well, I wish you the best of luck :) . Good things come out of hard work!

  1. Woot! Michelle, you are awesome. Thanks for giving us a peak into your creative process. I can’t wait for your novel to come out of its latest draft. The fact that an accident spearheads the plot has my attention immediately. Murphy’s Law is often underused by fiction writers, and that’s a shame.

    “I write about the ordinary human companions of someone extraordinary, and show why the powerful person and the human person can be equally useful and strong.”

    Damn straight. I find half-human, half-supernatural beings to be alienating, actually. The reinvention of well-known myths and lore, like angels and Greek gods, is much more appealing concept than simple invention.

    • Yeah, when you’re dealing with supernatural protagonists, you can use them as a doorway to underground urban fantasy elements, etc. But when you’re dealing with normal folk, you almost have to incite an accident. Not much else will propel them into another world, you know? Although, I’m still fascinated by how The Doctor’s companions voluntarily leave their normal lives to travel with him. It usually isn’t the result of peril or an accident at all – it’s charm and a sense of adventure. So, it depends on the character and what they’ll respond to!

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