I’ve known PJ for a few years now, both as an author and a cover designer (she designs the covers for the Jain Lazarus Adventures). I’m thrilled to host her ahead her debut novel’s release on March 23. PJ talks about her process, in her own words:
A Twisted Process
According to Merriam-Webster, process is “a series of actions or operations conducing to an end”. When applied to writing a book, those actions would be: pre-writing, writing, revision, editing, and then publishing. That sounds, as my mother always said, easy-peasy.
(insert slightly hysterical laughter here)
Merriam-Webster obviously hasn’t met me.
According to my friend Justene, this is what my writing process looks like:
“Create characters, create a world. Toss them into a plot. Write forever. Rewrite. Rewrite again. Rewrite a few dozen more times. Send it out to beta readers. Look at the feedback. Freak out for a while. Make a cover. Think about throwing in the towel. Beat yourself up. Rewrite a couple more times. Decide another rewrite will make it different but probably won’t make it better. Send it out for publication.”
I cracked up reading her description but guess what. It’s funny because it’s true. The “process” I followed to write my first book, A Twist of Wyrd, was a study in frustrated perfectionism. But it wasn’t necessarily my process that was the problem.
Every writer follows a different path to their final destination: the Hero’s Journey, beat sheets, various systems created by other authors, or pieces of all these things sewed together into a Franken-process. Where I went wrong was the mistaken belief that I just hadn’t found my OTP (one true process). I thought there had to be some magical system out there that would take me from dim bulb to illuminated writer.
That may sound a little weird, but in order to understand why I was so dead set in my OTP belief, you need to know a little more about me. When I’m not writing stories about valkyries and berserkers, I’m a spreadsheet slinging, database pinging Business Analyst. My day job is all SQL code and Excel formulas, and if you’ve never worked with either, let me just say that a single misplaced comma can ruin your day. So, making the switch from by-the-book Vlookups and Select statements to a “learn the rules so you can break them” philosophy was a little panic inducing.
I could never decide which rules it was okay to break and I could never make my manuscript equal four, no matter how many times I added two and two. So, I got trapped in a rewrite loop. For years. Until one day, tearful misery, I called my sister and she gave me some advice that finally broke through logic wall. She said, “Stop writing the book and just tell the story.”
After trying everything else, I decided I had nothing to lose, so I did it. I stopped worrying about the rules and the beats and the acts and I focused on telling the story of a man and woman battling enemy factions and their own fears on the path to real love.
The by-product of my newfound “just tell the story” attitude was that I started to trust myself and my writing. I finished my novel and worked up the bravery to share it with beta readers, warts and all. Knowing that I was sending out an imperfect story to others was terrifying. What if they hated it? What if they found gaping plot holes? What if they couldn’t connect to my characters? What if? What if? What if? This is the part of the process where I created about thirty different versions of my book cover and thought about throwing in the towel.
Then an author friend of mine stepped in and saved my sanity, and with it, my book. How? By freaking out while writing his own novel. This successful man, who I deeply admire, was experiencing some of the same fears I was. What if readers hate my story? What if I’m not giving them what they expect? What if they just don’t get it? Suddenly, I was the one offering comfort and advice, and in doing so, I realized that there was nothing wrong with my process or my writing or with me. The only problem I had was one that we all have from time to time…letting fear hold me back.
So, that’s how I reached the publishing phase of process, with a whole lot of help from my wonderful beta readers and my brilliant editor. Just to be clear, this doesn’t mean that I’ve gotten over the freaking out. I’ve just made the decision not to let it stop me anymore. My plan for book two in the Ways of Wyrd series is to surrender to my lack of process, step into my character’s shoes, and leave the footprints of her life on the page. I’m kinda scared, but I’m also looking forward to the journey, no matter how twisted the path may be.
A TWIST OF WYRD – THE WAYS OF WYRD BOOK 1
They say a person’s wyrd – their destiny – is carved into the branches of Yggdrasil long before they are born.
Three hundred years after Odin’s gates to Earth malfunctioned, Outlanders left behind have integrated into society so thoroughly that few humans are even aware of their existence.
Straddling the divide is Bryn Ullman, a PI with a unique skill that’s in demand by Akron PD and a phobia that even her martial arts training can’t defeat. Her shadowy heritage means that she is always looking over her shoulder, and has no patience, and no place in her life, for Trygg Mackenzie and the confusing things he makes her feel…and want.
Trygg, head of security for the Devourer mob, is a berserker in hiding. If the Allfather finds him, eternal servitude will be the least of his worries. But for Bryn, he’s willing to take the risk if it keeps her safe and gains him redemption for his past.
A murder investigation throws them together, but with mob secrets and unknown factions at work, will giving in to their passion be their undoing or their salvation?
On the path of fate and destiny, it’ll take A Twist of Wyrd to save them both.