Monday, March 31, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop

As I mentioned on Friday, a few weeks ago I accepted Gillian Hamer’s call to take part in the Writing Process blog hop. The hop has just a few simple rules, including that you publish on a Monday the week after being tagged (hence my off-calendar Monday post) and link back to the blog of the person who tagged you in a kind of a tip of the hat. I’d also like to mention here how much I enjoy and recommend Gill’s novels. I still have to find time to get to her Complicit and Closure, which I have on my e-reader. I posted my review of The Charter last year—first in a new category of “Hidden Gems,” which tells you what I thought of it. She is definitely a writer to watch.

So, on to the questions:

1. What am I working on?
The Winged Horse—my third novel, second in the Legends of the Five Directions series—is with its beta readers. Two have responded; two are still working on the manuscript. I’m hoping to have all comments back by early May so that I can go through the text once more and have the book out on schedule in June 2014. In the meantime, I’m doing the preparatory character and story work for The Swan Princess (Legends 3: North). I love all the stages of writing, even revisions, but story preparation is particularly fun because I can let my imagination range as widely as I like. The reining in comes later, when I realize there’s no way I can cram all these ideas into one novel without it ending up longer than War and Peace.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
The genre of my work is pretty broad—historical fiction. My first novel, The Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel, doesn’t even quite meet that requirement. It could be considered a time-travel romance, but it doesn’t involve actual time travel–just a computer game—or a real past, just a fictional one. It’s also very tame by the standards of modern romance. The Golden Lynx and its sequels are genuine historical fiction, but they differ from the rest of their kind by their location—sixteenth-century Russia and the surrounding lands ruled by the descendants of Genghis Khan. I blend real history, slightly altered history, and Turkic mythology in these novels. I use a historical note to deal with the deviations from historical fact and the mythology to reveal characters’ states of mind; I don’t intend the books to be historical fantasy.

3. Why do I write what I do?
I’m a practicing historian, specializing in pre-eighteenth-century Russia. I use the Legends novels as a way to reach people who otherwise have no reason to pick up a book on a place that seems too long-ago and faraway to have any relevance to their lives. If, by reading my novels, people want to find out more about this fascinating time and place where I have spent most of my adult life, so much the better!

4. How does my writing process work?
I use what could be called the modified snowflake method. In the snowflake method, the writer creates a rough outline, which s/he adjusts while writing. After two novels that took forever—because I had no idea where they were going until they got there, so I had to do a ton of rewriting—I have learned to make up an outline and ensure I have a story before I begin writing scenes. I use the exercises in John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story for that purpose. But I am a natural seat-of-the-pants writer who discovers her characters by throwing them into situations and watching them squirm their way out, so five pages into any story, the plot starts veering off in directions I hadn’t anticipated. Even so, the outline helps keep me on track and away from some of the more bizarre side paths.

It’s a modified snowflake method because once I start, I don’t bother to revise the outline beyond plotting out a few particularly thorny chapters. I just keep going and aim to end up more or less where I decided in advance.

Last, my job is to introduce you to the three writers who have agreed to continue the blog challenge.






Ruth Hull Chatlien has been a writer and editor of educational materials for twenty-five years. Her speciality is U.S. and world history. She is the author of Modern American Indian Leaders and has published several short stories and poems in literary magazines. The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is her first published novel. 









Courtney J. Hall spent her formative years writing mediocre short stories and angst-ridden poetry before turning to novels and finding the critique group that saved her literary life. Her first book, Some Rise By Sin, is historical fiction set at the tumultuous end of Mary Tudor’s reign. Some Rise By Sin will be published through Five Directions Press in mid-2014. Courtney is a member of my writers’ group, so I can promise you that historical romance fans will love Some Rise by Sin.



Pauline Montagna was born into an Italian family in Melbourne, Australia. After obtaining a BA in French, Italian, and History, she indulged her artistic interests through amateur theater while developing her accounting skills through a wide variety of workplaces culminating in the Australian film industry. In her mid-thirties, Pauline returned to university and qualified as a teacher of English as a Second Language, a profession she pursued while completing a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing. She has now retired from teaching to concentrate on her writing. As well as The Slave, she has published a short story collection, Suburban Terrors. 


For more on Pauline’s writing, join us for her guest post on May 9, “The Art of the Sword” (Nasan has already set aside a piece of her precious writing paper to take notes).

And once again, many thanks to Gillian Hamer for this opportunity! Talking about writing is almost as much fun as writing itself.






1 comment:

  1. A lovely introduction to that balance between writing historical fiction (my genre as well) AND developing those skills in publishing in an internet age. Well worth reading. I'll check back!

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