Today’s Day in the Life post is by Jen Ponce an author known for her powerhouse women. Here she talks about her process and how the element of surprise is helpful. Hope you enjoy!
My stories often begin in dreams. Seeded with the stories I read, watered with the shows I watch, and fertilized with the tidbits of humanity’s flotsam as it floats by me during the day. Sometimes the idea is a good one but it’s not big enough to fill a novel. So it sits and waits until something comes by to pollinate it.
People often ask writers if they are pantsers or plotters. For me, it’s always been both, though I lean toward pantsing. There’s something wonderful about sitting down to a blank document and letting the story roll out onto the page. I discovery write, which might be a better way to describe my technique. I know, sort of, how the story will go but I let my imagination take me to my destination however it wishes to travel. This doesn’t always flow well and sometimes I have false starts and stops, like a traveler taking a wrong turn. It’s rarely wasted time though. I can either use what I learned down that wrong-way street in a different part of the book or save it as scraps for something else.
I edit as I go too. Not completely or fully, you understand. It’s really all about correcting the small things that bug me if they stay broken: grammar, spelling, plot holes, mistakes in continuity. I’ve written a couple of novels without stopping to fix stuff and let me tell you, it was awful reading it through later. I like polishing some stuff as I go. It feels good to pick up the trash and junk from my travels, rather than littering along the way, thinking I’ll pick it up later when I come back by.
I don’t put together intricate character sketches or write out the history of the place I’m writing beforehand. It ruins the surprise of the story for me if I do it too soon. I merely begin by writing, by watching a character interact with her world, and I let things rise as they want to. It’s usually when I’m a quarter of the way into the story that I finally start piecing together history, back story, magical systems, etc … This is often the point when I’ll start seeding some of the things I’ve learned into the previous chapters (so I don’t forget.) An example might be discovering that my character knows a death spell only great wizards know and she’s not a great wizard, so I have to go back to the first few chapters to show her learning the death spell from her ancient grandmother who was a badass who didn’t follow the rules. Or something.
Once I’ve finished my book, I put it away and start something else. Sometimes I leave it for a couple weeks, sometimes for months. It helps put some distance between me and the prose. Then I read through, picking up more trash along the way. I send it to my alpha reader and then take her ideas under consideration as I go through again.
One of my favorite things to do is plunk the prose into NaturalReader, which reads and highlights my stuff in a fairly pleasant voice with a British accent. (Because so much stuff sounds better read by someone with a British accent, don’t you think?) This helps me catch a lot of jangly sentences, misspellings, misused words, etc …
The best thing about my writing process is that it fits me. I’ve found the thing that works for me, the technique that helps me produce a novel in about two, three months’ time. It has to be different for everyone because we’re all different. The best advice I can offer a new writer is to try lots of different things. Discovery write. Plot. Do character sketches and maps and religious texts for your world. Write standing up. Writing laying down. Write with pen and paper, or quill and ink. Try it all and see what works, what sparks your writing fire.
One of the things that has helped me tremendously is the Magic Spreadsheet. You can find the group on Facebook. It’s basically a tool to motivate you to write every day and you earn points when you do. Another place that’s helped is the Dragon’s Rocketship. It’s a warm, welcoming community of geeky people who love sci-fi and fantasy. There are many writers there and I get energized talking with I want to thank Jessica for letting me stop by! Thanks, Jessica!
You can visit me at my website: http://www.JenniferPonce.com, on Facebook at: www.Facebook.com/JenPonceAuthor, or on Twitter at: http://www.Twitter.com/JenPonceAuthor. You can find a list of my books on my website and I invite you to drop me a line if you’d like. My email is Jen@JenniferPonce.com.
Jen Ponce is a writer of kickass women and oogy monsters. She loves to find the fantastic in the mundane and currently lives in the Panhandle of Nebraska. Links to her dark fantasy books can be found on her website.