Writing Process? Is There Such a Thing?

So a long time ago in a galaxy far away I was nominated by Midwestern Gothic contributor and all-around good guy, Lee Krecklow, for the Writing Process Blog Tour. The actual tour was probably over a long time ago and I am venturing into irrelevancy, which should give you a clue as to my answer to his call – what’s your writing process? How do you work? And away we go!

What are you working on?
What am I not working on? That may be a better question. Recently I quit my high-powered (middle management) advertising executive (middle management) job in lieu of striking out on my own as a consultant. This is also a busy time of year for Midwestern Gothic, with the Voices of the Middlewest Festival, AWP, a new book, new issues, and a few other surprises all in full gear. Plus I’ve got a family, plus I’m finding time to edit and work on a few short stories. Needless to say, my dance card is pretty full.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?
When it comes to writing and reading for pleasure, my genres are fantasy and sci-fi. I love being transported and experiencing metaphors and imagery that I’m not familiar with. Plus, I’ve always had a soft spot for space exploration and swords and sorcery. Usually, in my work, I try to make the story approachable – in that it’s not about the science or the world building, but the people and relationships within it. I tend to like to tell stories that are small as opposed to the big, sweeping epics as well. If I went back in time and created Middle Earth, my version would be more like The Children of Hurin as opposed to The Fellowship of the Ring.

Why do you write what you do?
Again, I’m going to go hard fantasy here and quote George R.R. Martin. “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” That same logic applies to writing, for me. It gives me a chance to experience and live something that I never would have otherwise.

How does your writing process work?
I’m typically a planner, in that once I get the seed of an idea, I like to rough a few things in before I draft. It’s helpful for me to write a one-sentence pitch for the story, something that gets my juices flowing, and, as a reader, would make me interested in reading. Then I rough in the characters, who they are, what they desire, and how they might conflict with those around them. Then I rough out the plot in scenes as a way to keep me focused on what’s next. If I’m writing a short story, I’ll usually plot the whole thing. If it’s a novel, I’ll usually work a chapter ahead. I find that way helps me discover the book as I draft vs. feeling boxed in to a predetermined plan that might not work. After that, I’ll typically edit in 4-5 passes, starting with broad, content issues and narrowing into things like dialog tags, filler words, etc.

And there you go! In the spirit of keeping this going, I’m nominating another person I’d like to hear from.

Michelle Webster-Hein has published work in River Teeth, Midwestern Gothic and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, among other places. She holds an MFA in Fiction and Creative Nonfiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize. She also works as a co-editor of River Teeth’s “Beautiful Things” series, which grew from an essay of hers by the same title. Her essay “Counting Apples” was listed as “notable” in Best American Essays of 2014. She lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan with her husband and children.