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My Writing Process in a Shell of a Nut

toddOne of the best things about having writerly friends, is celebrating with them when they cross the finish line.  One of my talented friends in such a position is LOUISE GALVESTON, author of By the Grace of Todd.


Louise tagged me in the #myworkprocess blog thinga-do. Here’s her post on her work and how she produces it, and below, mine.



A. What am I working on?

Currently, I’m revising a perky little YA manuscript that involves cellular memory, serial killing and sex. And also, bad words.  Although this story is quite dark, it’s a lot of fun for me. It’s set in my home state of Texas, and recreating the rhythm of Texan speech patterns, as well as idioms peculiar to the state, is like wrapping myself in a warm serape.


B. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write books for guys that girls like to read too. If it’s a subject that’s usually discussed in whispers, I wave it like bunting on the Fourth of July. My stories are gritty and realistic, but always with a small twist that makes the world skew a bit toward the weird.


 C. Why do I write what I do?

You’d have to ask my psychiatrist.

D. How does your writing process work?

I believe in vomiting out your first draft–just GET IT DOWN.  As I write,  characters’ names change,  the plot careens wildly and I might try on different tenses and  points of view. DOESN’T MATTER. Then, I choose which tense and point of view I like, and rewrite for plot and story elements. Then a third draft concentrating on character, setting and cleaning up plot holes. Then a last pass to clean up anything I missed. I. Am. Thorough.



Heather Trent Beers’ blog, I’M JUST SAYIN’:

Heather is my adorable friend who writes articles for magazines and periodicals, local and national, for kids and parents. She also writes charming picture books, as well as edits for cash money. We like to travel together under aliases.

Tessa Elwood’s blog, INK & ANGST:

Tessa is my cool friend who writes YA novels and designs websites and also is a photographer extraordinaire. This gal’s got her fingers in so many pies *CORN ALERT CORN ALERT* we call her Marie Callendar. She also lets me post on her blog sometimes. Is that a pal, or what?

Heather Ayris Burnell’s blog, FROLICKING THROUGH CYBERSPACE:

Heather is my cyberfriend. We met on Twitter and have yet to coordinate a meeting IRL. BUT I HAVE FAITH. She’s lives on a mountain and raises things–crops, critters and kids. And writes picture books, as well as a YA here and there. I love her madly, and am so curious to get together in person so I can hear her voice. I imagine it is smooth as a lamb’s ear and fresh as goat’s milk.



revising: keeping stuff straight

Boy, that was a long week.

Good job holding on, guys.


Next step before I get going on the Ol’ Revision in earnest is…

(Don’t you like how I offer no reason or excuse for my long absence?)


A story bible is a file where a writer keeps track of the facts of her novel for continuity’s sake. One doesn’t have to be writing a three-book series to have one. If you’re like me, (what a dangerous phrase to type), you’ve gone through six or seven names for everyone and everything and everyplace during the first draft.

Some things that might go in a Story Bible:

  • Character names, first and last
  • Character ages, physical descriptions
  • Street, town, restaurant, store names.
  • Pet names
  • Books the character’s read, TV shows, food they ate.
  • Rules of society
  • Spells, language quirks, texts
  • Car makes and models

Another helpful thing to stick in the Story Bible is a CALENDAR.

I use a VERY RUDIMENTARY mini-outline (because we know I am not an outliner) and count out my timeline through the weeks and months. See where in the year my book starts, how long it lasts, make sure my pacing is realistic.

In general, stick the niggling details of your novel in your Story Bible.

I sure don’t want to have to flip through 100 pages of manuscript to see what street a certain character lives on, or if it was a Camaro or a TransAm the villain was driving. Who has the time?

I gotta write.

forget sprockets: keep revising

Are we all revising like bunnies?

Yeah, I have no clue what that simile means, either. But aren’t they cute?

To recap:

  • First, I printed out all my chapters.

That concludes my recap.


Yes, yes, I know I am a sworn pantser. But there comes a time in everyone’s life when only an outline will do. My time is AFTER the first draft.

Bob is in pretty good shape, but there are threads in the beginning of the manuscript I’d forgotten about by the time I got to the end. Miraculously, many of them tie in nicely with later plot points.

I think that’s because I let my subconscious play.

Some ideas didn’t turn out well and were abandoned. When I’m first-drafting I don’t go back and rewrite unless I’m really stuck.  I try to keep moving forward in the story, as I tend to ruminate on perfect turns of  phrase. Which is ridiculous at a stage when I’m writing whole chunks of manuscript that might be thrown out.

After I write the outline of my first draft AS IS, I can go through and make the choices of threads to keep, threads to drop, threads to connect.

I make sure the plot is logical.

That the subplots ENHANCE the main plot.

Then I write  another outline AS IT WILL BE. This is what I’ll work off of for my second draft.

But. There’s one other thing I have to settle on before I start the second draft….



Hang on.

the three categories of critiquers

When you surrender your precious work to criticism it’s helpful to know the strengths of your assailants–er–writer pals. I’ve been the critiquer and the critiqued for a good while now, and I have come to believe that critiquers fall into three categories:


1. The Copy Editor–Her strength is catching punctuation and grammar mistakes. She will make sure every who, whom, gerund and semi-colon is used correctly. She will catch your spelling errors and format your pages. We love this woman dearly.

 2. The Detail Gal/Guy–She/He will help you restructure your garbled sentences, or point out that you have used the word, “incontrovertible” six times in three paragraphs. She/He will push you to choose your words carefully. Find  continuity problems. These critiquers are a little harder to love, but in the end, we do.

3. The Global Citizen–He finds the flaws in your plot, tells you when your main character is unlikeable or a scene doesn’t work. He demands that you dig deep into your wounded psyche to write the most layered story that you can.  Also, you may have to throw out the first ten chapters and rewrite the last third of the manuscript.

We want to kill this guy.

I have filled all these roles at one time or another, but I think my biggest strength is as the Detail Gal. However, I strive to become more proficient as a Global Citizen. How can you become a well-rounded critiquer?

  • READ–The only way to understand what makes a novel work is to read plenty of novels
  • LISTEN–To more experienced critiquers. Absorb their comments about others’ manuscripts, not just your own.
  • READ–Again? Yes. But this time, read books about writing. Oh Lord, there are a million good ones

There are also sub-categories: people who understand the picture book and people whose forte is YA. Dialogue people. Mood people. Imagery people. Etc.

Find a critique group that will open your eyes to your weaknesses.

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