The rules for the tour are simple:
- Link to the previous blogger
- Answer the four writing-process-related questions
- Nominate/tag three more bloggers
Here are my nominees before I get going. I tried to pick people who haven’t been tagged yet… If you don’t do awards or chain posts (or have already done this one), no worries, just consider this a shout-out.
- Nerd in the Brain. This awesome geeky blog posts several times a day, and I’d love to know how Emily gets it done!
- Only Fragments. I haven’t been following this blog for long and I’m still figuring out what goes on, but basically there are stories and poems about the same two characters in any number of alternate universes, timelines, styles, etc. Very interested in how that happens!
- The Fiction Diaries. A fellow aspiring author who also runs Paperback Planes!
Now on to the questions. I’ve decided to hit academic/history writing, blogging/pop culture writing, and the writing of fiction for each one. It’s kinda long, but the processes are different for me, and it’s in keeping with the triple subjects of my blog, which are getting triplier all the time…
Why do I write what I do?
History: Well, as the story goes, I was an English major. I took a mandatory history course, was complaining because it was awesome and I’d only get to take one, and my mother said “You CAN change your major, you know…” and I did. In more general terms, I write it because I want people to know about cool things and relevant things. I don’t post a lot of that here… Hoping to do more in the future.
Blogging: Because I like talking to y’all!
Fiction: I’ve just always wanted to write stories. I have ideas for books I want to read, and they don’t exist, and they aren’t going to write themselves! Frankly I’m my own biggest fan. I sit down to edit and get lost in my own story. If I could read my own work all day I would, but I have to build up a store of work to read! 😉
How does my writing process work?
History: I start with research. I amass a staggering list of sources and read the most basic introductory one first. Then I skim the questionable ones for any relevant information, then fully read those most applicable to my topic. I take comprehensive notes throughout the project — I’ll have a single document with headings (the full citations) for each source, and notes with the appropriate page numbers. As I go along I keep the paper in mind, and I start to clump the notes together by topic (i.e. future paragraph) in another document. I’ll add the author’s name to the page number if I copy anything into the second document.
By the time I’m done researching, I have a lovely index of everything plus a topical outline with all my citations built in, and then I just have to go in and write the prose (much of which I’ll already have written in the second document as I decided what to include and what topics to cover). I write the introduction first just to give me a roadmap, but I change it as I go along to reflect the actual content. I write the whole paper, then read through it and add a conclusion, then go back and do a final edit to the introduction so it reflects the conclusion. (Otherwise I get notes saying “Your conclusion was great, you should’ve put that in your introduction!)
I know it sounds like a lot, but in practice, I have the paper done at the same time as I finish my research, and I don’t lose any information that should’ve been included. I know how much information I need for a paragraph and how many paragraphs for a given page length, so that’s built in as well — I rarely have to edit for length, although sometimes I do hold off writing about a subtopic until I see if I need another half-page.
Blogging: Kind of a lower-maintenance version of the paper-writing scheme, really. I have a list of post ideas, and a rough schedule of what’s coming up/on what days I want to post. I’m currently alternating history/pop culture/writing posts as much as possible to make sure I hit all three on a regular basis, because otherwise I get lazy and just do a bunch of reviews. (Reviews are easy because I write the whole review up in my head while I’m watching or reading. I just have to type it, Google a cover and some illustrative images, and I’m ready to go). Generally I get an idea and jot it down along with any examples I want to use. I do any research I need to do and take notes, then write up the connecting bits and it’s ready to go. Most posts sit in a draft or in my list for weeks or months accumulating more little examples and notes until they reach critical mass for a blog post, and I get around to putting it all together.
Fiction: It’s a moving target. I really just try to start with what I know about a project and use that to inform how I should write it. I start with an idea in a pile. I think about it, voluntarily or not, until I have a sense of the characters and the basic idea. Then I try to conceptualize what I know in a visual way so I can get it out of my head and onto something permanent (i.e. not my memory) where I can start filling in the gaps. I’ve learned to use Post-It notes for this whole process, because I can color-code them and move them around. I need a visual impression of everything at once. If I try to work out a full text outline then I really lose the magic by trying to make things make sense and be linear too soon. As I go, I fill in more and more Post-Its, and as I go through the Post-Its I type them into the document where I’m writing the story. (I wrote about that here). Then I write my scenes, and periodically I go back to edit them/add more until I have a whole draft, then I edit that. I haven’t finished much stuff so I haven’t edited much stuff, but it’s my favorite part, and I basically do it by reading through in the mindset of a reader (like I said, I’m my own biggest fan), and adding/subtracting things that I feel ought to be there or not.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
History: Most of the time historians come up with these crazy “pick one side of the debate” arguments to try and sell books, but I’m more known for reading every single word available on a subject and then trying to see how the different arguments might fit together on a middle ground that might’ve actually happened. Nothing in history is fully knowable, all history is interpretation, but I think the only ethical thing to do in the profession is try to approach accuracy. Of course, you’re always always always limited by the availability of sources, and I find I often end up writing about the historiography of a subject — how it’s been interpreted over time — even more than the actual history.
Blogging: I guess it’s different because I’m kind of running three blogs in one. Jury’s out on whether that’s a good idea or not! It all seems related to me, but I’m crazy.
Fiction: This is kind of a funny question because I spend more time asking “How is my work the same as others in its genre?” I like to write about genres and stories themselves. I like to be aware of genre conventions and use them for my own purposes. I also ask that question because I will inadvertently copy people if I haven’t read their work — the opposite of many other people, who will inadvertently copy things they HAVE read. (Either I’m deeply connected to the subconscious hive mind or I’m just terribly unoriginal). So, I go to some effort to get familiar with other similar works and find points of departure where I can do something different, or at least make a purposeful homage if I want to do that. (This is why I include supplemental reading/viewing in my monthly updates, to make sure I’m actually doing it!) I can copy tone pretty well too, and I need examples to learn, so I also read outside the genre for more tone inspirations and for things like “books with weird narrators.”
What am I working on at the moment?
History: My senior seminar. I’ve gotta come up with 20 pages of gold, y’all, it’s awful. I was going to write about how animal rights advocacy made children’s rights possible, but the sources weren’t readily available or overwhelming in number, so I went back to my previous idea — the relationship between the development of the novel as a form and the development of human rights.
Blogging: The C.S. Lewis series is ongoing. The usual big list of ideas and things I want to review. I have vague thoughts about a series on bisexuality or maybe bisexual characters, not sure where I’m going with that yet…
Fiction: It’s a space opera about mad scientists. One is a plant-based alien using his people’s aggressive politics to disguise his plans to destroy the universe — the other is on the run for blowing up a planet and is torn between defecting to a second alien race and essential suicide by law enforcement. (That’s the working two-sentence description, anyway. I like to get people to guess which one’s the protagonist and which one’s the antagonist — if you’ve read this far, take a guess in the comments! 😀 )