I have been tagged in a Blog Hop interview about my writing process. I was tagged by my Alter-ego and Co-editor Michell Plested. Little is known about the origins of Michell as they are shrouded (or at least covered with a moth-eaten towel) by the mists of time. What is known is largely obscure and often contradictory. Oh and he sometimes speaks about himself in the third person. He is The author of Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero which was nominated for several awards and the forth coming sequel. He has been faithfully podcasting his Great show about the writing process Get Published since 2009.
He has many more credits to his name, and you can find out more about him at his website michellplested.com
Mike was tagged by Robert Runte, who was tagged by Joe Mahoney, who was tagged by Susan Rodgers… There is more, feel free to follow it all the way back to the beginning of the internet.
So on with the interview:
Michell: You are a very busy guy. Two jobs, a large family, a farm to tend and several projects on the go in writing, editing, slush reading and podcasting. How do you manage to juggle everything?
Jeff: The best answer to this is a quote from one of my favorite books, Captain’s Share by Nathan Lowell
I apologize ahead of time if I get the quote slightly wrong.
Captain Delmen: How are you managing?
Captain Wang: The truth is I’m not, except by massive applications of avoidance behavior.
In all fairness. At this point I don’t have that much of a farm, our sheep have all been turned into food, or given back to their owners, and we just have chickens who really don’t take much work, but the sheep are coming back, and there is always the chance that we could fall off the grid at some point and go “full time farmer,” as my kids say. But back to the question.
The reality is that I just find a way to make time if it is really important to me. It is one of those things, if you have a lot of projects going on, no matter how busy you are, you can make time if you want to. It is a real balancing act, and I won’t lie, I have dropped a number of balls from time to time, but I usually manage to keep the important things up in the air. I wish I had a magic secret that I could share with you, but I really don’t.
Michell How do you balance having so many projects on the go? Do you work on one at a time for each one: or a certain number of hours; or a % of your writing time; or is it just a matter of focusing on each deadline as it comes up? Or do you switch from one to the other as you get blocked or bored with what you’re currently working on?
Jeff: Yes! It really is kind of a combination of all of those things. Obviously deadlines play a pretty big role in determining what I work on but that is only part of the story. I usually will work on something until I get stuck and then jump to the next project until I get stuck there, and them come around to the next one. Since I don’t really have any dedicated writing time I can’t say if I spend a % on any one project or another, but I do try to give any given project my full attention while I am working on it.
Michell What is your writing process? Where on the “just sit down and write <—> detailed notes/outline” continuum do you fall? Do you revise as you go, or first draft and then revise? Any routines or rituals that need to be followed?
Jeff: My writing process. Ha! What writing process? That is not really true. I have a process, but it is much more of a by the seat of your pants kind of thing than most people would like. I don’t outline. I have tried several times and usually end up just tossing the outline out the window by the point I get to point # 2 on it. For that reason I tend not to do it, as all the time I spent outline ends up being wasted, and I have precious little time to create in the first place. That also means that I tend to write much shorter works a lot more often then I do longer ones.
As far as once I get writing, I will often sit down and write an entire short story in one go. There is something about the momentum that allows me to just get it out there. I do not revise as I write. Occasionally I will correct a typo that is really bothering me, but most of the time I tend to leave them until I go back to do an editing pass. Because, as I said I write by the seat of my pants I do find myself re-writing stories from scratch sometimes. That seems counter intuitive as far as not having enough time, but once I get that initial idea down, the rewrites come very quickly.
Probably the thing that surprises people, is a lot of times when I sit down to write I don’t have a clear idea of what I am going to write. Some times I have a general idea. A very general idea. Something like, a writing prompt, a picture I have in my head or some times even just a character that I want to explore. Once I have that Idea, I just start writing. I make something up until an idea clicks. Usually this consists of writing a scene that I have decided to put my protagonist in, until something happens. A lot of times these opening scenes get trashed, but that is ok since they are really just there to get my creative juices flowing.
Michell: You have written short stories and novels. You have edited anthologies and you have produced podcasts. From those experiences, what stands out as the most important learnings and principles or advice so far?
Jeff: It is going to sound rather trite be you need to write. It does not matter how good it is, or even if you get published. If you want to write then you have to do it. Don’t make excuses why you can’t, just do it.
Feedback. Getting feed back is essential. If you don’t get any feedback, you have no idea what people think of your work. You might be making simple mistakes that you can’t see. You have to ask for feedback sometimes. But accepting feedback gracefully is also very important. Understand that you might not be the best writer, podcaster, whatever, right out of the gate. It is going to take time, and there is no such thing as an over night success.
Like everything else writing is work. Sometimes it is a lot of fun, sometimes it is a lot of work and you are going to hate it. But in the end it is ultimately worth it.
Michell Anything else you’d like to add on your writing process?
Jeff: I have a very unique process. In the 20 or so years I have been working with other writers, I have never found anyone who writes just like I do. The reality is that everyone has a different writing process. I tried very hard in the beginning to make my writing process like other peoples processes, and I really struggled. Nothing I was writing was very good. And I really started hating writing. Then one night I sat down and wrote a story. I wrote it the way I wanted. At first it felt like I was cheating or something because I was not being regimented or sitting at my writing desk or wearing my “special writing socks. Then I showed it to someone and they liked it better than what I had been writing. What had happened was that I was able to incorporate some of the lessons that I had learned by studying other people’s processes styles, into my own without really changing the way that actually wrote the stories. The moral of this story, do what works for you but don’t be afraid to study and learn from other people’s methods and styles.
So that is it for the interview. Thank you Michell for tagging me. This was a lot of fun. Later this week, I will post links and questions for the two people I have tagged.