#2: MY WRITING PROCESS – INSIDE A WRITER’S MIND, by Mollie Hunt, Cat Writer
This is the second in a six-week blog tour series for the Northwest Independent Writers’ Association. NIWA serves Pacific Northwest writers working to achieve professional standards in independent writing, publishing and marketing.
I was born to write. I love being alone. I love being quiet. I absolutely adore running around inside my head. The only time I’m really at peace is when I’m writing.
This realization didn’t come about easily. In a society that rewards extraversion, I spent years hiding my desire to be left alone. Then one night I sat down at the computer and began to write a story. Forty pages later, I knew I had found something important to my life.
That first forty pages turned into 450, a mystery called “The Oldest House.” I loved the way the story revealed itself to me, taking its own twists and turns. I loved the freedom I felt when I was writing it. When finished, I enthusiastically sent it to publishers and agents and got my first round of rejection slips. That didn’t stop me from writing, just from sending queries. I soon settled into my second mystery, “Broken Roses.”
Noted sci-fi author David Gerrold said in his Worlds of Wonder workshop that the first million words are practice. That sounds like a lot, but if you truly love to write, they just happen. By the time I found myself penning my first Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery, I had hit that million mark. And I’d learned so much along the way.
I am now working on my 7th and 8th Crazy Cat Lady mystery, and I have the process down. Here’s how it goes:
- The initial idea.
The first glimmer of a thought that could be a story that could be a book comes in many forms. It can be a writer’s prompt or something you see at the store. It can be a dream. I often think of a title and work from there. Cat Café was such a story. I loved the idea of cat cafés, and took off from there.
- The thrill of the first draft.
Once I’ve got my idea, it’s time to run with it. I try not to think too much as I pen that initial draft; just let the story lead me. I don’t fuss over grammar or wording—that can be fixed later. If I require research, I make a note to come back. This is the fun stuff, riding on the wings of pure creativity.
- The work begins: the second and third (and possibly fourth) draft.
Now for the real work, editing and revision. During these run-throughs, I check for flow and continuity, for gaps and discrepancies, for plot holes, and for anything that doesn’t seem right to me. I use an ongoing outline, a cast of characters list, and a note page where I write whatever comes to mind. Yes, I do use color-coding.
- The print-out/read-through. (Red pen required)
After all those edits, the manuscript should be perfect, right? Unfortunately it usually isn’t. This is when I print it out and read it out loud to my cats. Seeing the words on paper reveals typos and overused words. Reading out loud shows the flow of the wording. This is especially importing with conversations. Ask yourself, do people really talk like that, or am I channeling Agatha Christie?
- The beta readers.
Now that I’ve fixed the problems I found in the read-through, it’s time to hand off the red pen to someone else. As the writer, I instinctively fill in gaps that would be glaringly obvious to others, but another reader will catch those things and more. I have a list of questions for the beta reader to answer once she’s finished reading, such as, “When did you realize who the killer was?” and the ever-revealing, “Did you like it?” (Please, please say yes!)
- The editor.
I love my editor. She’s smart, savvy, and knows where to put the commas. Once the manuscript is as perfect as I can hope for it to be, I say goodbye to it for a little while to let her do her magic. It takes time as we go back and forth with questions and comments. Then, voila, it comes back to me a fully formatted book!
- Revising with the proof copy.
I publish through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing because it’s easy and free. I begin with the print version which allows me to order a proof copy. Once the proof is in my hand, it’s red pen time again. In the same way the print-out revealed mistakes, reading the actual book shows up lingering issues. I know we were taught not to write in books, but get over it and use that red pen!
- Finishing touches.
There are things a writer must do that go along with publishing, such as cover design, back cover blurb, front and back matter, bio, and links. Blurbs are hard for me, so I often begin working on them long before the book is finished. For Cat Café, I wrote one of my most well-received mini-blurbs though I still had no idea where the story was going: “A body is found in the cat café, and all the black cats are missing.”
- Do it all over again!
Congratulations! The book is done and out! Celebrate, then it’s time to get on with the next book.
Watch for my next post, #3: A WRITER’S LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH REVIEWS, coming the week of April 12-18 on the William J. Cooke, Notes From A Journey blogsite.
Check out this week’s other participating NIWA blogsites:
- Connie J. Jasperson, Life in the Realm of Fantasy
- William J. Cooke, Notes From A Journey
- Heliocentric, Suzanne Hagelin
- Tanstaafl Press, Thomas Gondolfi
- Mollie Hunt, Crazy Cat Lady Mysteries & More
About Mollie Hunt: Native Oregonian Mollie Hunt has always had an affinity for cats, so it was a short step for her to become a cat writer. Mollie Hunt writes the Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series featuring Lynley Cannon, a sixty-something cat shelter volunteer who finds more trouble than a cat in catnip, and the Cat Seasons sci-fantasy tetralogy where cats save the world. She also pens a bit of cat poetry.
Mollie is a member of the Oregon Writers’ Colony, Sisters in Crime, the Cat Writers’ Association, and NIWA. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and a varying number of cats. Like Lynley, she is a grateful shelter volunteer.
You can find Mollie Hunt, Cat Writer on her blogsite: www.lecatts.wordpress.com
Amazon Page: www.amazon.com/author/molliehunt
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/MollieHuntCatWriter/