Saturday, March 15, 2014

Giselle Marks ~ My Writing Process

You may remember a few weeks back we had Giselle Marks join us here at The Mess as she discussed sex within the romance genre. Well, I am pleased to say she is back with us today. This time she will be talking about her writing process and I'm sure we can all gain some insight as well as tips. I always enjoy hearing how other authors go about their craft. It confirms things I am already doing or points me in new directions.

So settle back with that morning cup of coffee or tea and enjoy another great post by Giselle Marks and then visit her on her website or several Facebook pages. You'll be glad you did.

My Writing Process

I have been asked a few times to write an article on my writing processes and I have always answered that I don’t have a process, I just write. However I have thought about the question and decided what I consider “just writing” could have a better explanation. From fairly young I realized I was good at writing. I love words, despite teachers at my grammar school using copying sections of the dictionary out as a punishment.

Friends boast of their first writing credits, over the moon at seeing their name in print, but decades have passed since I first sold articles and was given accreditation. I never thought about writing, I just did it. I wrote articles; some for money, some for promotional purposes and some because I was asked by friends to write something. I was involved in some amateur magazines and published in some professional titles. I also worked part-time for a small local newspaper for a couple of years.

My first serious fiction writing began after reading a couple of feminist sci-fi books that were loaned me by a friend. I loved the stories and writing style but argued that in reality, female government would not be that nice. The discussion got quite complicated but she dared me to write a fantasy/ sci-fi story using my premise as structure. And so the “Zeninan saga” was born, and has continued increasing ever since. I never intended to write a series but just one book to prove my point.

Although I was a competent non-fiction writer, I had not read the fiction writers’ bibles. The concepts of show not tell, over passive writing, too much back story, infotab, excessive reported speech and other writing problems had not been revealed to me. If I had known what I know now about writing fiction, I would never have written a cast of thousands with multiple points of views and telepaths. But I thought I knew how to write, so I plowed on regardless and created my female run planetary Empire of Zenina, where women were physically stronger than men and were in control.

It should be remembered I was writing to demonstrate my argument not because I was driven to write. Looking back I realize that writing “the Zeninan Saga” I was expressing my irritation at some of the genre’s writers’ determination to remake life as they wished and not as it would really be. So my dominant women were given the extreme attitudes of human men towards women only with the sexes reversed.

I have often felt that traditional sword and sorcery fantasies move too far away from real life in their monumental quests for freedom and power.  A mixed sex and race group; sets off together for months travelling long distances, over unpleasant terrain and battling against bizarre mythological and demonic creatures.  The group contains fit and attractive young people yet they do not flirt, make approaches to each other or get it on. Somehow no matter how sacred the quest, that has always seemed unlikely to me. Many of these stories forget to mention the problems of carrying stores of food, water, hunting or foraging to supplement these supplies or cooking their meals.

The characters never admit to feeling crippling hunger, thirst or get upset stomachs from eating bad food. They do not need to stop to go to the lavatory or dig latrines. They are always appallingly brave about their injuries from battle and usually heal well unless magic or poison has caused their sickness. They go through interminable suffering with fortitude only to become panic struck by public speaking and ceremonial events. I am not saying I managed to avoid all these clich├ęs; in fact sometimes I used them deliberately because to start with “the Zeninan Saga” was a bit of a spoof.

The first book emerged the same length as “Lord of the Rings” but it has since been cut into shorter more readable books. There have been rewrites and editing, followed by more rewrites, editing and even name-changing before the Saga found a publisher. However having allowed my “Amazons” to keep male sex slaves, it is not surprising that there is quite a lot of sexual content in the Saga which is still fantasy/ sci-fi with erotic content but not erotica per se.

I originally wrote an essay plan and invented my characters, I was surprised to find that they argued with me over the plot and each had their own ideas of how their characters should be written. My heroine Princess Marina despite suffering from serious over-achieving is obstinate at fighting her destiny to be Queen; she does not want the job. The stories about her life continued whether I wanted to write about her or not.

Then I decided to write a Regency Romance in the hopes of getting published. I wrote two before I found a publisher. The much simpler structure of Regency Romance allowed me to learn more of the craft and finally read some of the writing advice I should have read before writing full length books. As a Regency writer I have also kicked a little at a genre I love reading, but often feel frustrated by. I am very determined to get my historical details as accurate as possible and therefore research and double check even facts that I believe are correct. I find reading so called historical romances which are littered with anachronisms unsatisfying and occasionally hilarious, which is not the aim of a sexy romance. Worse some writers avoid all facts and details, believing that way they can avoid doing any research, which just leaves the reader in limbo.

Finally accepting the problems in “the Zeninan Saga” I undertook an exhaustive series of rewrites and dramatic slashing of my favourite pieces of writing. Eventually I asked people to read the new versions and was staggered to hear their criticisms of it. More editing and rewrites followed. I was convinced my critics could not all be right about how bad they said my writing was. Unfortunately, it was not until I took those criticisms on board that I understood what was needed to make it readable for others. The Saga still has various writing problems but Nevermore Press have accepted the first four books for publication and I hope to be commencing a final series of edits and rewrites in spring of this year, prior to publication.

You might think I have digressed rather seriously from my original subject. So my writing process: if I have an idea of a plot I write it down but may not then work on it for some time. My characters argue the details of their plots and actions in my head, until it makes sense and I can start writing. I insert the essay plan, if any, into the first chapter and write in front of it, wiping out lines of plan as I get it written and adding plot details to the essay plan as I go along. If there is any difficulty in writing the next chapter, I go back to the beginning and correct, edit and rewrite until the story flows once more.  I frequently write different stories at the same time. If one is not ready to be written then I write something else or do another writing chore.

I do not believe in “Writer’s Block” which I see as a self-fulfilling negative concept.  If a story is not ready to be completed then I am in “Thinking Time” and do something else until it is ready to write. Some of my stories and more recently poems have come to me on waking from dreams and I write them down.  I write as much as I can in a day, only editing obvious mistakes as I go along. The following day I reread the previous day’s work and edit.  I may delete the whole of it and start again, cut it drastically, or just tweak a few words here and there. When I reach the end of the writing, I continue with the story until life or exhaustion interrupts.

I try to write every day and am grumpy if life prevents me from writing. I do not set myself a daily word goal, a couple of hundred words is better than no progress. If for some reason or other I have a few days off from writing, I do not berate myself for only writing a paragraph or two.  But the output increases as I get back into the swing of things. It is better to write anything, no matter how bad, even if the following day you rewrite from scratch, than not to write at all. Criticize yourself but not to the point of preventing yourself from writing. Throw nothing away!  Just move discarded writing to a separate file. Only by writing more, do you improve your writing. Despite having two novels and a couple of short stories published in anthologies I do not see myself as an expert writer. Even now I have a contract for “the Zeninan Saga” I think of myself as a journeyman writer who hopes to continue to improve her craft.

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The Marquis's Mistake
by Giselle Marks

Devastatingly handsome Sebastian, Marquis of Farndon awaits a lady, a present from his best friend Stephen for his thirtieth birthday. Alicia Lambert fleeing from a forced marriage is shown into his room by mistake. Inebriated from celebrating his return to England, Sebastian disbelieves her protests and is reluctant to let her escape. Meeting him later in London, Alicia is relieved he does not recognise her.  But when he pursues her and proposes marriage, she doubts his feelings for her are real. Sebastian wants to protect Alicia from the machinations of the blackguard Major Mallinder as he fears for her life and that of her aunt Maud. But will Sebastian’s natural intelligence be enough to deal with the ruthlessness of Alexander Mallinder?

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Where can you find Giselle?

“The Marquis’s Mistake” and “The Fencing Master’s Daughter are published by Front Porch Romance and are available on Amazon in paperback and e-books! 

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Did you enjoy what you read?  Leave me a comment and then join me at The Mess that Is Me on Facebook!

See what you've missed ~ Scrivener, My All-In-One Writing Tool 
                                           The Jury Duty Draft 
                                           Remember When They Meant All

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  1. It's a helluva way to come into fiction writing, but hey, it must have all been in there lurking or it wouldn't have poured out so readily.
    And you know you really ARE a writer when your characters start bullying you

  2. Great words--especially about people boasting. Thanks so much for sharing. I'll be bookmarking this one!

  3. Wonderful post Giselle. ...and I am so glad your friend dared you. I love Princess Marina and the Zeninian saga! Your journey will continue and I am so excited to read your stories. I really enjoyed The Marquis's Mistake and The Fencing Master's Daughter