Thursday, April 24, 2014

Blog Hop: "Hold On" by Alabama Shakes

Many thanks to Gina Fluharty and Sarah Raplee for asking me to participate in The Writing Process Blog Hop. Gina asked me to post in January and I failed <miserably> to get my post done. But I did manage to snag Melia Alexander and Linda Mercury into the fold. Now Sarah requested my participation and I am taking it as a sign from God and the universe that I need to comply. Here are my answers to the four key questions:

1) What am I working on?
I am working on a young adult Americana Steampunk novel that takes place in an alternative 1860. It is the first book in a planned five book series.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? story features escaped slaves. The lead character is sixteen years old. She is a mechanic and a healer with paranormal abilities. Having an African-American lead in a Steampunk novel is still rather rare. The physical transition from slavery to freedom happens in the first book, however throughout the rest of the series the mental transition is also explored. How does one learn to live like a free person when subservience is literally beat into you from an early age? There are romantic elements in the series, too. Specifically, the son of the plantation master is in love with my heroine...but she has to decide if she really loves him or if she has 'a love' for him because he provided a level of protection for her when they both lived on the plantation.

3) Why do I write what I do?
Let's just say that I grew tired of reading books that did not include people like me. :D Black and brown skinned people were present in every time period in some way, shape, or form - yet we are missing from most works of fiction. I started writing, because I felt like my stories weren't being told and my perspective wasn't adequately represented.

I write both futuristic fantasy and steampunk. I am an engineer by degree and a time traveler by choice. I love doing research and I love gadgets. Plus, I get to either rewrite history or create a new future. Writing ties all of my interests and hobbies into one big ball of good times!

4) How does my writing process work?
I typically start with a kernel of an idea that usually takes the form of a 'what if' question. Any little thing can plant the seed of a story in my head. Often I hear things on National Public Radio that prompt an idea. In my day job, I work on products for smart / green buildings. I have to stay current on new and developing technology, so it is always interesting to wonder what would happen if the technology is misused or abused in some way by some maniacal person.

After I have the idea, I plot my first draft of the story using Michael Hague's Six Stage Plot Structure. It is the three act, five turning point structure used in screenplays and it is a great way to lay out the rough skeleton of your stories. To be honest, I am a mix of plotter (planner) and pantser (writing by the seat of my pants - stream of thought writer). I like to plot the 'big rocks' (major turning points) for my story, then pants my way from rock to rock. I subscribe to Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People school of thought. Specifically, habit number two "Begin with the End in Mind" applies to my life and my writing. I have to know where I am going, so that I can pants my way there.

I put my plot diagram, story timeline, word count tracker, submissions, and other key story information into an Excel spreadsheet to keep everything organized. Yup, that's the engineer in me rising to the surface!

The artist in me, creates fun world building journals that include maps, character pictures, drawings of gadgets, character profiles, and other mementos that pertain to the story. I even use these journals to pitch my books.

All of this work is being done while I'm doing research and hammering out the first draft. Getting that first draft done is soooooo key. I used to get stuck in a loop of rewriting the first few chapters. I learned the hard way that you just have to power through that first draft, because the characters and story lines will take twists and turns that you didn't plan...and often these twists affect the opening chapters.

For me organization is key, then it's just a matter of getting the words on the page.

"Hold On" by Alabama Shakes
I LOVE this song. I get a chill every time I listen to it, because it is the story of my life! I fell in love with Alabama Shakes during their performance on The 2013 Grammy Awards ceremony. I remember being mesmerized by lead singer-guitarist, Brittany Howard, and her soulful crooning.

I'm adding "Hold On" to my mixtape, because as a writer you just have to keep plugging away at your dream of writing a novel. Don't worry if people tell you it's 'unmarketable' or 'I'm tired of reading about vampires / werewolves / whatever.' If the story is on your heart and keeping you up at night, then write it and see what happens. If you don't write your book, you'll never know where it would've taken you...

"But I don't want to wait......"

My world building journal for my latest work...

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