Tag Archives: writing process

Spinning Plates—Raising a Family & Writing Books

Two toddlers, one with limbs like Plasticman, the other in the throes of potty training uncertainty, one partner with a busy academic career, the other attempting to navigate the policy morass that is post-Affordable Care Act implementation, a year into a house purchase that has seen no fewer than half a dozen small renovation/replacement projects, and it’s no wonder I am struggling to stay on top of my writing schedule. Even my weekday schedule itself is upside-down: now that both children are in preschool in the mornings, my late afternoon writing time has evaporated.

But here’s the thing about being a writer—I still find time to make words appear on the screen. I might not meet my goals in a given week, but writing is something of a flexible career. That story I wrote last year finally found a home over at Expanded Horizons. The back burner project left languishing in the recesses of my brain suddenly jumps forward and then I have an essay ready for a market. The followup to my memoir, a mess of incorrect chronology and meant-for-journal-only prose at long last feels emotionally available to me, so I can restructure it and add to the 44,000-word count. If I’m lucky my editor will tell me it’s not total trash when I eventually email it to her. And then I can get back into the sequel to my YA novel and finish the first draft (I’m at 52,000 words on that one so far).

If this looks like my work is all over the place, it is. I haven’t even mentioned the speculative piece I’m working on for an anthology submission, the pitch I’m trying to write to get a column in a market for the 2016 election, or the adult novel I’ve been working on for three years that needs a research grant so I can delve into an archive on the east coast. (Please, NEA, please.) I’ve missed a couple of deadlines in all of this chaos, but that’s okay—if I can’t make the submission date, I must not have been that interested.

Call it all Writing While Gemini.

——–

It’s two days later since I started this blog post, and here I am at a desk with a vanilla latte inches away from my thirsty self, and a computer under my fingerprints that is beaming its 99% battery charge at me with something like glee. My four-hour writing window is here, so toodaloo, friends. My process is messy, encumbered with all kinds of nonsense and scatterbrainedness, but it works for me … mostly. Would that we all find our productive processes wherever they may be.

Questions Answered About My Writing

Cooper Lee Bombardier tagged me in some author chain mail thing, and normally I’d avoid a meme but first, he’s a really nice fella, and second, it’s about writing, so heck, I could bloviate about that all day. Here are my answers to four questions he posed:

1)     What are you working on?
I’ve got several projects right now; in all honestly, probably too many. But here they are—a novel about four different gender non-conforming people from different eras in the United States, who by chance come together to build a high school for queer and trans youth. I’m trying to look at LGBT generationality, invisible history, the fracture lines across our communities, as well as more general themes of redemption, struggle, the fallibility of memory, and what indebtedness we have to each other.
I’m also in the middle of revisions to my followup memoir, Bumbling into Baby, which as it sounds, is about Susanne and my attempts to start a family. It’s told in the same tone as Bumbling into Body Hair, so it’s a humorous story, even as it makes some criticisms of the medical system, reproductive politics, and ideas about family.
And then I’m working on a non-genre short story about a trans man with Alzheimer’s who forgets he’s trans. This is a story I’ve wanted to work on for a long time, and I’m writing it in reverse chronology (apologies to Chip Delany, who loathes structures like this). I’m not sure which market will work for it, but right now I’m just focused on the story and the writing.

Read More…

The Thing About Writing a Book Series

little box writing a letterThe Unintentional Time Traveler may be my debut novel but it is also the first in five planned books about Jackson Inman/Jacqueline Bishop and their adventures. I’ve taken the long game approach and drawn out the character and story arcs for the protagonist(s), and mapped out the antagonists for each episode in the series (there will be a continuing villain and a “local” antagonist specific to each). Despite my best laid plans, I’m prepared for the story to veer a bit from its supposed trajectories. Back in my project management days, I would have called this tendency “scope creep.”

Nowadays I’ll just say that it comes with the territory of the subconscious—because some significant percentage of my creative writing process is done by the characters themselves. Or maybe the tips of my fingers have their own intentions. Or maybe what Chip Delany refers to as the “dark matter” of his mind is a thing that happens for other writers, too. I was working on a completely different project a few weeks ago—an ensemble novel about four gender non-conforming people from different eras who come together to build a high school for queer and trans youth—when I realized the scene was getting away from me. As if I wasn’t my own person, I was typing out that the character was getting in someone’s face in a law firm, and then security showed up and hauled him away, his shoes leaving temporary scrape marks in the beige carpet. Wait, what? That’s not how this scene goes. That’s not what I architected to happen. And I’m the creator of this little universe, correct? Read More…

Writing without a Map

old world mapNot only are jokes on the skids as humor goes–apparently there are more 21st Century ways to make humor than old stand-up one-liners–but coupled with the rise of GPS systems, and jokes about how men never ask for directions sound positively archaic. With a smart phone or in-car positioning system, one never need be mapless again. If our sense of direction is sub-par, no worries. In a new neighborhood or city, instructions for orienteering are just a few clicks away.

I admit it; I am a fan of plans and outlines and the writer’s equivalent of a blueprint for works in progress. But sometimes my standard process doesn’t unfold, and I find myself writing into blackness. If I prefer having character descriptions in front of me, a knowledge of the major plot points and an intermediate grip on the themes as I sit down to write, then I have to manage my disappointment when identifying the tale to be told is a murkier process. This new novel will only reveal itself to me in word-sized chunks–no matter how I try to stir up bigger portions of the narrative, I can only clutch at one scene at a time, like trying to get at the most excellent plushy animal at the bottom of a seaside toy grabbing crane. I will take what I can get, succumbing to this impromptu apprenticeship in authorly creativity and patience. Read More…

%d bloggers like this: