What is the easiest part of the writing process?

The easiest aspect of writing is editing. The words are all there, it’s just a matter of making sure they are the right ones and that they say what I want them to say. The most rewarding is knowing I wrote a book worth reading.

Here are some other authors’ responses to the question about the easiest part of the writing process. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .
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From an interview with Rod Marsden, Author of “Disco Evil” and “Ghost Dance”

The first draft is the easiest part of the writing process. You can really let yourself go. Very few writers expect the first draft to be the last. Michener went through a number of drafts before he was happy with Hawaii. I go through a number of drafts before I even approach an editor.

From an interview with Joylene Nowell Butler, Author of “Broken but not Dead”

Editing. Once I’ve written that first draft, I step back and regroup for a week or so. I do the same thing when I’m finished the last draft. The second draft is my favourite part. It’s filling in the blanks, eliminating all the garbage, adverbs, excessive wordage, unnecessary characters and scenes, and baring the bones of the story. It never fails to excite me during this process. Like unveiling Cinderella’s beauty. Love it.

From an interview with J J Dare, Author of “False Positive” and “False World”

Inspiration. When it’s there, the words flow like a raging river. If the story is in my head and I’ve been tapped by my muse (and she stays with me), I can write a novel in a week.

From an interview with A. F. Stewart, Author of Once Upon a Dark and Eerie

For me, the easiest element of writing is the dialogue. I rarely have a problem with the flow of dialogue. Possibly because I can hear all those character voices whispering in my head.

From an interview with Michael Haskins, Author of “Car Wash Blues”

Oh that’s easy, turning on the computer!

From an interview with James Boyle, Author of “Ni’il: Waking Turtle”

There comes a point after you’ve struggled for days and weeks, seemingly trying to wring words out of stone, when you finally hit your groove and the story simple flows out of you. It feels less like writing than channeling the story from some outside source. It is an amazing feeling when it happens.

So, for you, what is the easiest part of the writing process?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

Becoming Pat Bertram

I finally understand why books about writing suggest writing the first draft of a novel as quickly as possible, to forget the mechanics and just get the story on paper or in the computer. I’ve never been able to do that — the words come hard to me (or perhaps I enjoy the search for the right word too much). Either way, it takes me a long time to write a book. I also write longhand, which limits the number of words I can write at a sitting. Still, my work-in-progress has been taking longer than normal. In fact, I’ve been playing around with it on and off (mostly off) for more than two years.

I just finished typing up what I have written so far — 39,000 words. Very good words, actually. The book started out as a humorous apocalyptic fantasy, metamorphosed into horror, then turned into allegory (which is sort of ridiculous, because who reads allegory nowadays?) but it seems to have gradually swung full circle and become humorous again. I found myself laughing aloud at times, which is something I seldom do when reading, and never before at anything I wrote.

I’m anxious to get back to writing — the story deserves to be told. (And I hate the thought of wasting those hard won words.) The problem is, I am not the same person today as I was when I conceived the story. I’m not even the same as I was in January when I last worked on the book. The past two years have been filled with changes — learning how to use a computer, learning the Internet, finding a publisher, learning how to promote (or rather trying to learn), to say nothing of the wonderful people I have met and the friends I have made. It’s been a life changing experience, this becoming Pat Bertram, author.

So the question is, do I continue writing the book as I conceived it, do I try to wing it, do I do what I’ve been doing all along — writing when and what I feel like? A more important question that haunts me is that my first four books had a particular theme — how public lies and hidden truths affect our lives — and I have said what I wanted to say about that. So where do I go from here?

I don’t write short stories, but Second Wind is going to be putting out an anthology in September, and my publisher is tying to talk me into submitting a story. (You can submit one too. Second Wind is sponsoring a contest, and the winner will be published. You can find the details here: Mystery Contest.) So that will allow me to put off working on my manuscript for a while (which I’m sure is not what he had in mind), but eventually I will have to decide what I want to write. What I want to say.

In the end, it will depend on who Pat Bertram becomes. And of that, I haven’t a clue.

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On Writing “Shadows”

My guest today is Joan De La Haye, author of Shadows and co-founder of Rebel e Publishers. Joan writes:

I started writing Shadows a few years ago. I was in the middle of editing and finishing off another book, which is now collecting dust in the back of a drawer, when the idea for Shadows hit me. In fact it did hit me, in the middle of the night, in the guise of a very freaky nightmare.

I decided that since it frightened me, it probably would also frighten others. I couldn’t go back to sleep so poured a glass of wine, switched on my old computer and started writing a story that seemed to come from somewhere else. It was one of those rare moments when the muse strikes and there’s just no arguing with her or in this case him. The story just flowed out of my fingers and onto the keyboard.

I spent a year working on the first draft. This time I took Stephen King’s advice and wrote with the door tightly shut. I’d made the mistake with my previous book, the one that’s collecting dust, and allowed too many people to influence it. As a result it ended up not being my book.

The first draft was only Sarah’s story and written from her perspective. It ended up being way too short, so I added Kevin’s story and tied them together. They fitted together seamlessly, but there was still something missing from the story. I couldn’t figure out what it was until I sent it off to a local publisher. The submissions editor loved it, but said that it was too short and she then suggested that I added some additional scenes.

The additions she suggested were all great and incredibly helpful, but she also got me thinking about another side. One I hadn’t even thought about. Carol’s story was written in a matter of days. I couldn’t focus on anything else until her story was written. Shadows became the interwoven story of three very flawed individuals struggling with their own demons.

I re-submitted it to the local publisher, who then unfortunately didn’t like the extra scenes that they’d requested. It wasn’t what they’d wanted. It took a year from my original submission to the day the publisher passed on Shadows.

Needless to say I was devastated. I’ve never been very good in handling rejection. What I did to get over the rejection can be found on Pat’s other blog: Book Marketing Floozy.

See also: Pat Bertram Introduces Jack, the Torment Demon from Shadows by Joan De La Haye

Writing Discussion With Cliff Burns — Part III

When I asked Cliff Burns, author of So Dark the Night, if he’d like to guest host my blog, he responded that he’d rather have a discussion. I was thrilled. I enjoy talking about writing, but even more than that, I love learning how other writers approach the craft. This is the third and final part of the discussion.

BERTRAM: National Novel Writing Month is coming up, and its adherents are a heated bunch — they don’t seem to like anyone questioning the process. You’re one of the few I’ve come across who speak out against it. 

BURNS: I know people have really taken me to task for lambasting NaNoWriMo and its adherents. To me, the concept is a stupid one — write a novel in a month, give me a break! It devalues the professionalism of the vocation, the enormous amount of time and energy authors put into learning and developing their craft. Anyone can claim to be an “author” or “artist” — the arts seem to condone this sort of thing. I suppose I’m an elitist and a snob. It took me ten years of daily writing and scores of credits before I was able to call myself a writer without feeling self-conscious and phony. As I wrote in a recent post: you’re not a plumber if you unclog a toilet and you’re not an electrician if you screw in a light bulb. Each of those trades requires training, a lengthy apprenticeship period. Why should the arts be any different? 

BERTRAM: I can’t even imagine what it would take to write a novel in a month. The writing of a novel takes me a year, and some of the research I’ve done has taken more than that. But then, I am not an intuitive writer. I have to drag each word out of hiding and find its place in the puzzle that is a novel. I suppose two types could write 50,000 words in a month — the intuitive writers who spew out words, and the logical writers who have the whole thing outlined before they begin. Me? I fall somewhere in the middle. I so hate tossing aside my hard work that I habitually rework my writing as I write. (Though I have rewritten one of my novels four times, and deleted 25,000 words from another..)

BURNS: My first drafts come out in a huge gout of words — I try to get it all down as quickly as I can.   I think I wrote the first draft of one of my novels in 45 days. But . . . then I spend the next eighteen months (or more) revising, editing, polishing, going over each syllable with painstaking care. I outline a little bit, scribble down character names, some ideas for certain scenes, but that first draft usually becomes the outline I work from. It’s incredibly labour-intensive but the only method that works for me.. I would say only a few words or phrases survive from my first draft by the time I’m finished. It’s only a roadmap, nothing more. And I never grow attached to a character or scene — “everything in service to the story”, that’s my motto. All else is expendable.

BERTRAM:  I was going to ask if you push for a daily word count, but you mostly answered that. So how about: do you write at the same time and in the same place and in the same manner (computer, pen/paper) everyday?

BURNS: My office is right across from our bedroom so it’s the first place I visit in the morning. Moving things around on my desk, gearing up for the day. I play lots of music to get warmed up, start the juices flowing. Commence work when my family leaves for school or work, break for lunch, maybe tea later in the day, popping downstairs when my family returns. We have supper together and then often it’s back to the office to square things away, tie off loose ends and set things up for the morrow.

BURNS: First drafts are almost always handwritten (even my 450+ page novel So Dark the Night) and then tapped into my ancient Mac computer with fingers swollen and aching from arthritis or nerve damage.  Twenty-five years or more of three or four-fingered typing has taken its toll. How does that compare to you? I hope you’re a lot saner in your work habits than I am. You strike me as a pretty levelheaded individual . . . or am I wrong?

BERTRAM: You’re not wrong, but when it comes to writing, I’m not so much level-headed as undriven. Each of the words has to be dragged out of me, an act of will. And sometimes the words are not there. But I don’t sweat it; I edit, I blog, I promote. And when the words come, I’m ready. I also write handwrite my first drafts — I think one reason for the crap published today is that authors lack the brain/finger/pencil/paper flow. I read once that the only place other than the brain where gray matter is found is on the fingertips. May or may not be true. But it feels true.

BERTRAM: When does a writer become an author? I used to think it was when a writer got published, but now that anyone can get published, it’s not much of a criterion. Nor does a writer become an author when they can make a living at it; good writers seldom can. The hacks usually do.

BURNS: A writer writes. That’s it. Every single day. Publication credits are meaningless (especially today) and critical acclaim doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Sales figures? Well, Dan Brown sold millions, as did Stephanie Meyer and, in my view, their work is sub-literate.  he way you can tell is read it out loud. Just one page, any page will do. If you’re not crying with laughter after a couple of paragraphs, it’s time to get a funny bone transplant.

BURNS: Aspiring authors: apply yourself to the task of writing with discipline and courage and perseverance. I love the quote from Nabokov about “writing in defiance of all the world’s muteness”. Not just scribbling the same thing, working to the same formula but trying to stretch your talent as far as it will go . . .. and beyond. Working outside your comfort zone, writing prose that scares and intimidates you. But it’s the daily practice that, to me, reveals those who are serious and distinguishes them from the wannabes I loathe.

BERTRAM: is possible to become an author people will read even without the “help” of corporate publishing?
 
BURNS: I self-published my first book back in 1990 — it sold out its print run in less than 5 months and earned praise from various reviewers, as well as Governor-General Award-winning writer Timothy Findley. I started my blog, “Beautiful Desolation” 18 months ago and since then I have ceased submitting work to other venues — my work (including 2 novels) now goes directly to my blog and I’ve never been happier. Corporate publishing is dying, the profit margins aren’t big enough and soon the Big Boys will be dumping their publishing arms. The new technologies allow writers to have access to readers around the world–I only wish this stuff had been around ten years ago, it would have saved me a lot of frustration and fury. Kindle? E-books? POD? Why not? Anything that allows the writer to get a bigger slice of the pie is all right with me…
 
BERTRAM: How did you promote your self-published book in 1990? What would you do differently today?
 

BURNS: That was my book Sex & Other Acts of the Imagination and a lot has changed since then. For one thing there are far fewer independent bookstore and those were the folks who sold the lion’s share of Sex. I took copies with me everywhere I went–Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto–approached every indie bookstore I could and sold them (usually on consignment). The vast majority of those book stores are gone now, sad to say. Sex cost $3000 to publish, my second collection, The Reality Machine, cost $6000 in 1997. Nowadays print-on-demand might save me some money–that’s something I’m looking into, likely using Lulu.com. Can’t quote you any price for that (as yet) but I’ll be using my blog and the vast reach of the internet to spread the word..

BERTRAM: Is there one website more than another that brings you readers? Any suggestions for authors just starting to promote?

BURNS: Hmmm . . . well, I try to reach out to sites that discuss writing and publishing and I have a RedRoom authors page. I comment on a lot of blogs, replying to posts that amuse or annoy me for one reason or another. My blog, Beautiful Desolation, is my primary promotional venue, to tell the truth. I’m also on LibraryThing, a place where bibliophiles can hang out and chat. They don’t encourage “blog-pimping” (a term I loathe, by the way), which is ridiculous because often I’ve written a lengthy post on “Beautiful Desolation” regarding a point under discussion. So I refer people to the post anyway and slap down anyone who dares accuse me of self-promotion.

BERTRAM: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me.

BURNS: Interesting the similarities and differences in our approaches and processes, our views toward the life and business of writing. Thanks for the discussion, it helped me better define and synthesize my thoughts.

Writing Discussion With Cliff Burns — Part I

Writing Discussion With Cliff Burns — Part II

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