In which I answer a few probing questions about my novel, its progress and my process. Or lack thereof.
I was invited last week by author and blogger Rita Arens to participate in a writers “blog hop,” where various authors are sharing on work in progress. Assuming they are making progress.
“Okay if I totally fabricate my answers?” I asked her.
I like Rita. She gets me.
I’ll give straight answers to these questions, though, because I love peeking into other writers’ processes, particularly when they confide stumbles and stalls.
What am I working on/writing?
I’m working on a first novel. It’s about the tension between domestic, cultivated life, and the soul’s wilderness–the same theme than ran through my memoir, Planting Dandelions, and runs through much of my writing here. My protagonist is a lifestyle blogger whose explosive crossover success is based on her exquisitely curated cottage life on an Ozark homestead. And it’s about to get very chaotic and messy. The story is about the way we tend to fence ourselves in, in the quest for security and stability, and what we fence out.
There’s also an ecological layer, mirroring the same conflict. I’m a naturalist at heart, and the ecosystem in which the story takes place is a character as much it is as a setting. I’m hoping I can bring a touch of magic realism to the writing through the perspective of a child character, who loves to wander through woods as much as I did as a girl. I want there to be a sense of fable.
Finally, there’s a conflict within another kind of ecosystem, media. My antagonist is a journalist with a career built on print. Everything she’s worked for is being encroached upon and choked out by (to borrow the infamous, sniffy phrase from Martha Stewart) “these bloggers.” A feminist who pursued her career while singly raising a son to adulthood, she’s appalled at the retro-romantic obsession of younger women with traditional domestic roles. She’s afraid and she’s angry. Understandably.
There are other characters and subplots, but I think I’ve already given away way more than you’re supposed to, and at the rate it’s going, I may be reading this summary off someone else’s book jacket before I finish the first draft.
How does my writing/work differ from others in its genre?
With one memoir, and a not-nearly-there novel, I’m not sure what my genre is. Trying to sort it out just gets me frustrated about the way literature by women gets packaged and pegged. I write as a woman. I try to represent the experience of being a woman. But I loathe the chick lit designation. I write for people who are interested in the same things I am: relationships, identity, creativity.
One thing I’m doing with this story that (I think) is unique is writing about the lifestyle/family blogger world in a way that’s intimate, not gimmicky. I’ve occupied that world for a long time in blogger years, and I know it very, very well. People are going to speculate that certain situations and characters are based on actual people, but they aren’t, except as a check for myself to ask if a scenario is plausible: could a blogger rocket to crossover success in a few short years? Might a blogger be given the opportunity to shoot a television pilot? Might a blogger’s divorce be news in national papers? Could there be people who are obsessed with destroying the reputation of well-known bloggers?
If you spend any amount of time in this realm, you already know the answer is yes, yes, yes, and hell, yes.
Why do I write what I do?
I think I covered this above. I write what I know, including what I know I can imagine. I believe in the power of “what if?”
How does my writing process work?
This is where I would love to fabricate an answer. Not having a legally binding deadline is really kicking my ass. Without that external do-or-die, avoidance and diversion is just too easy. I’ve got moleskines full of character sketches and back story. I’ve got a plot summary and an outline. I’ve got index cards and passages and snippets. But I have precious few numbered pages. People who complete manuscript after manuscript on spec are a wonder to me. I swing between feeling like I have all the time in the world, and panic attacks that my editor and agent will have forgotten who I am by the time I have anything substantial to show.
Since the kids got out of school, I haven’t strung three words together. I’ve thrown myself into nesting and homesteading instead: gardening, redo-ing our bedrooms, baking, pickling. I’m on the verge of sewing curtains. It’s ironic, because it’s my protagonist’s domain. Maybe it’s hiding. Maybe it’s research. Either way, it’s all usable.
Enough about me.
I’ve asked two of my most cherished creative companions to play along next week. Asha Dornfest is the creator of Parent Hacks — a site crammed with forehead-smackingly smart tips for life + kids–and the co-author of Minimalist Parenting. She’s at work on the fervently anticipated Parenting Hacks book. Karen Walrond is the author of bestselling book, The Beauty of Different, and author of Chookooloonks, an award-winning photoblog.
I’ll hook you up with their posts next week. Meantime, have a terrific weekend. Let’s kick it off with this:
Got anything to share about your own progress/process? I’d love to hear!