I was delighted to hear from my friend and fellow blogger, Jen Bailey (of writefiercely.wordpress.com), while in the midst of my month-long travels in South Africa. She reached out to invite me to participate in the My Writing Process blog tour and I gladly accepted.
Jen writes novels, short stories and picture books. She taught grades 4-8 before deciding to pursue an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Jen is now a professor of creative writing and editing at Algonquin College in Ottawa.
Her writing process blog tour post is wonderful and worth a read – she quotes Alaistair MacLeod, a TED talk and describes how she writes in the most intriguing and enlightening way. Check it out!
Now, let’s get started with this part of the tour:
What are you working on?
Almost everything I write I put up on my blog. I use this site as an open writing journal, a public diary, and sometimes a portfolio, a place to gather all my work, to share it with readers and to seek their thoughts and ideas.
I always believed that, if given the chance to focus on writing, I would write a novel. But, 10 months into my indeterminate leave from work, I’ve discovered many things about myself. And at the top of that list is that I don’t need to write a novel, and I may never do it.
Nevertheless, I write every day and post approximately three times a week. One out of those three posts is almost always a flash fiction piece written in response to the weekly prompts from the Speakeasy challenge at Yeah Write. The rest are thoughts, poems, experiences and photographs.
The Speakeasy is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. Most of the time, I write a story that fits within the 750 word limit and that’s it. The story goes up on my site and I move on.
Sometimes, though, a story begs to be elaborated and built upon. About a month ago, I wrote a flash fiction piece about two immigrants, an adult and a child, who meet by chance during an accident on the streets of America. The man recognizes his younger self in the child and their differing experiences collide.
People suggested there could or should be more to it than I had fit within the word limit and I realized there was. Lots. So, other than the short pieces I’ve been writing in my travels, I’ve been working on telling the rest of that story.
In the meantime, I’m travelling, keeping my mind open, jotting down ideas and taking pictures, all with the hope that this change of scenery will provide me with fodder for new creations… I had become slightly uninspired after 6 months of writing in my kitchen, snow day after snow day.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
There are countless bloggers, and countless among them who are writers. Everyone participating in the Speakeasy brings forward the best they have to offer. And each week, every single one of us responds to the same prompt with a completely different story, a completely different voice.
I find this fascinating. It just shows how unique our styles are, how differently our minds interpret the same picture, the same phrase, the same song. As unique as fingerprints.
My writing voice tends to be direct, unembelished and to the point, but it is also poetic and descriptive. I often begin by describing a scene, and then moving outward, slowly letting the reader in on what is happening in and around the scene.
Nature moves me and much of my writing takes place in nature – the sea, the sky, the mountains, a forest – with it becoming almost another character.
Why do you write what you do?
I write what I do because it is part of me. It bubbles up from somewhere deep inside and I write it down. I capture it because if I don’t, it might be lost forever.
There were years and years that I didn’t write. I thought I had lost my ability to come up with ideas, to invent stories, to write creatively. But the instinct to write slowly began to tug on me, to beg me to pay attention. And as I began to write again, I remembered how much I love the simple act of playing with words, of moving them around and making them sing, of watching a story or poem take shape before my eyes.
I write what I do because it comes to mind. And writing it down allows me to keep it, which makes me happy.
How does your writing process work?
I never know when a line will come to me, so I always try to have something at hand for taking notes – pen and paper and my iPhone are the media I use most. If I don’t have something with me to write with, it is guaranteed the lines will start flowing. In those situations, I try to repeat them to myself so I don’t lose them but that only works for so long before I forget everything.
I write a lot of little bits every day. Some things immediately turn into a story, poem or essay. Many of them sit as notes until I scan trough them and am hit with inspiration.
I do my best, free-est writing on my laptop. The bigger screen is the most comfortable and easiest way to chop and change words around. It allows me the freedom to let the words flow and move.
Generally, I will start with some line that has dropped into my head, either in the moment or at some previous point in time. As I build on it, a picture develops in my mind. I get a sense of the scene and the people in it and I try to convey all that I see, hear and smell and all that the characters feel. From that point on, the story usually tells itself. It takes me on a trip and only as it is concluding, as the issue to be solved is resolving itself, do I realize what the story is about, what my message is and how it should end. Then it is just a matter of finding the right final line to tie it all together.
Once I have a draft to work with, I read and re-read. I move sections and words around intuitively. I read it out loud and try different combinations until the sections that don’t flow finally feel right.
At least, that’s what I think my writing process looks like. So much of it is instinctive, I’m not sure if there is more to it than this.
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Thanks for joining in for this part of the tour! Be sure to check out the next segments of the tour on May 5, brought to you by Suzanne Purkis at Apoplectic Apostrophes and Alienora at Alien Aura’s Blog.
Suzanne Purkis is a writer, editor, blogger, mother, dog owner, and
general chaos-magnet. She learned to read when she was three years old, wrote her first story at the age of five, and hasn’t looked back since. Suzanne lives in Ottawa, Canada, with her husband and a bunch of children and dogs.
Alienora was an English teacher for thirty years, has written three novels, one of which, Long Leggety Beasties, is available on Kindle, and has kept a journal since 1972. She is married with a son, adores music and plays piano, violin, viola, spinet and most recorders. She lives in the South West of England.