My Writing Process
By Jeff Salter
I think it’s valuable to share these insights with other authors, with readers, and especially with youngsters who believe they are called to write creatively. Its chief value in the latter case is that it can show interested young writers that they don’t have to write precisely the same way as everyone else.
This series has four specific questions, which I’ve attempted to answer below.
What am I working on?
Gosh, as usual, it’s several different projects in various stages of development.
One is the “pre-edits” for G&MM, which is contracted to Astraea Press for their new Magnolia series. Another is waiting on first round edits to return for S7MI, which is contracted to Dingbat Publishing. Yet another is waiting on second round edits to return for HWR, which is contracted to AP.
Besides those manuscripts in various stages of edits, I have (literally) some seven or eight dozen “starts” on other stories. Many are already several thousand words along, though a few are merely concepts. The rest are (at this point) somewhere in-between.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’m hard pressed to come up with any particular genre for what I write. And I’m blessed to be affiliated with two small publishers who are less concerned about pigeon-holing their titles than they are about releasing great stories with compelling characters.
But to attempt an answer: I write comedy, comedic romance, romantic comedy, screwball comedy, suspense, suspenseful romance, romantic suspense, action, contemporary, historical, etc. [Hey, I’ve just completed – and contracted – my very first novel featuring a ghost!] I cannot claim my work differs from other writers with this array of fiction, partly because I don’t think I’ve read any other author whose work reminds me of my stuff.
Perhaps one of my readers will be able to suggest another author who writes similarly.
Why do I write what I do?
This will probably sound corny, but I write what’s inside my head. Where does it come from? Don’t really know. Some scenes and portions come to me as I sleep, some as I’m waking up. Some as I’m driving or exercising. Most just pop into my head while I’m writing.
I have often said that my characters tend to take over my stories and I just hustle to keep up with them. That’s not much of an exaggeration. Of course, that’s a rather undisciplined process and often I have to go back and “fix” continuity (among other things) because of what those characters have gotten me into.
I have created several minor characters – whom I only needed basically to ‘walk on stage’ and deliver one bit of info or perspective – who have subsequently pestered me for more ‘lines’. And when I have complied with their urging, I have usually been very pleased with the results. One example was Jason’s mother (Margaret) in “Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold”. Another example was Kristen’s brother (xxxx) in “Rescued By That New Guy In Town.” Each received additional scenes which really juiced up those respective stories.
How does my writing process work?
Besides the nine full-length novels – four published and three under contract – and two complete novellas (both published) that I’ve already written, let’s say I have “starts” on about 88 other stories (no exaggeration, though I’ve lost track of the exact number). Most of those have just ‘come to me’ and I’ve developed the ones I’ve had time and concentration to focus on.
What often happens, especially when I’m heavily involved in Manuscript ABC, is that I’ll suddenly get on fire with new ideas for Manuscripts BCD, CDE, and DEF. In those cases, I often stop my work on ABC only long enough to write down the basics of those others, and then hurry back to ABC. But sometimes CDE won’t let me alone and I sort of develop its early stages along with my more advanced work on ABC. It can get very confusing. But I learned long ago if I just stiff-arm those new concepts, saying, “Sorry, guys, no time for you right now,” that they’ll vanish and I’ll never see them again. So I HAVE to stop and at least record the basics, even if I won’t have time, possibly for years, to return to them for further development.
As far as process itself, I guess my Writing Plan is to take whichever ms. is the hottest – I mean that in terms of generating the most energy in my brain – and work like a fiend to finish its first draft. If things go as they have (so far) I can figure on completing a new novel in some five to six weeks (depending on its length)… assuming I don’t have other deadlines or heavy personal obligations during that period. There have been stories for which I’ve immediately gone on to the revisions… but other cases in which I’ve had to drop that first complete draft and move on to other projects (usually those with external deadlines).
— — --
That’s all four of the questions I was supposed to cover, but let me add a few statements about writing… especially for any youngsters who think writing may be in their blood.
Keep writing. Don’t fret so much about the ‘rules’ — you’ll have time for that later. [Rules can stifle your output… and besides, writing rules change over time.] Try to find a trusted reader who knows her/his stuff, but who will gently provide truthful feedback. Network with other writers. Don’t plaster your un-published stuff all over everywhere… because you could wake one day and find it in a Hollywood script with no attribution to you! Keep your files backed-up! Try to make at least one paper copy of your most finished manuscripts, so you’ll have a starting place if computers ever get zapped. Be willing to take constructive criticism. Be willing to ‘fix’ stuff that a perceptive reader says isn’t working. But don’t give up the heart of your story or the core of your main characters. If a story is not ‘clicking’ for you and you’re getting nowhere with it, just put it aside and work on a different one. Not every single piece of your writing should ever be published; think of at least half of your output as practice. Keep writing. Back up your files. If a friend / relative / rival tells you “you’ll never be a writer… give up”, do NOT give up, but write a few notes about that person so you can use her/him as a villain in some future project!
By the way, I wrote mainly poetry for some four decades before turning primarily to fiction. Most of what I say here also applies to verse.
Tara Mayoros is an author, artist, baker, music teacher, gardner, and nature lover. She sees the beauty in the process, and the miracle, of creation. The mountains are her home and they call to her whenever she finds herself in need of inspiration. Her debut Women’s Romance Novel BROKEN SMILES is set for a fall release by Astraea Press.