4 Secrets from My Writing Process

Frog in ForestToday’s post is part a Writing Process Blog Hop I was invited into by one of my favorite bloggers, Jon Simmonds over at Jumping From Cliffs.

As part of the Hop, I’m answering four questions about my personal writing process and then passing the baton on to four other bloggers who contribute tremendously to the creative writing blogosphere.

Here’s my take on my (mostly) private writing life:

What are you working on?
At the moment I’m in the first round of edits on my fourth novel. It’s the story of a Metalhead kid in the 1980s who lives in a Michigan trailer park with his schizophrenic father. His father’s issues stem from his time in the Vietnam War, where he lived on the lunatic fringe and fell in love with a dead girl. The story is really about the kid’s relationship with his father, and how we are all intertwined with certain people in order to fulfill a contract with them, whether we like it or not.

I’m also writing my fifth novel, which is still in the very early stages, and I make it a rule not to talk about early-stage work.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?
My work is definitely transgressive. Traditionally, it’s a very male realm. For instance, Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk are two of the giants of transgressive fiction in popular culture, but most casual readers would be hard pressed to come up with the name of any female transgressive authors. The more determined reader can dig deeper and find phenomenal work by women like Kathy Acker (Blood and Guts in High School) or Alisa Nutting (Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls), but the fact remains that when you’re looking for work by these kinds of female authors, you always have to do a little digging. You can try it for yourself. Google “female transgressive writers” and you’ll see what comes up. The second Google result is Chuck Palahniuk, in fact.

So I guess the fact that I’m a woman, and I’m writing about things like sociopaths and necrophilia, makes me an odd one out in an already odd genre.

Why do you write what you write?
My first three novels were all based on my life. I felt I had to write those three to “clean my creative pipes” so to speak after not writing for years and years. The next novel I wrote was pure fiction, as is the novel I’m writing now. With these two, the main character of each story showed up in my head one day and told me something about themselves that was kind of explosive. They then told me that they needed me to write their story so that they could explain the reasons behind the explosive thing they had done.

I definitely feel that I’m under “contract” with these characters to transcribe certain passages of their lives.

How does your writing process work?
I usually write once or twice a week. Once when I meet with my weekly writing group (which is devoted to an hour of silent writing) and then once on my own. I don’t plan my novels at all. I don’t use outlines and I steer myself away from any other sort of conscious planning. Throughout the week, I work with a character by letting them into my life and my headspace and then I observe what shows up. They usually tell me the next leg of their story, or show me in images, and then I record those pieces when I sit down to write that week.

And I’m now passing the baton on to these four insanely talented writer friends, who I respect and admire beyond words:

KatanaPen by Setsu Uzume
Setsu Uzume says, “Wielding a pen and wielding a katana both take dedication and serious intent. If you’re a warrior, or want to write about warriors, this is the writing blog for you.” Setsu pushes me to reach my creative potential by never letting me forget how important it is to sit my butt in the chair and write. Through reading KatanaPen I keep my enthusiasm going and show up every day for my writing. And by following her example, I set high standards for myself when it comes to getting my work out there in the world.

Paul Sutton Reeves
Paul is a blogger after my own heart. He might be one of the few people I’ve met who loves literature more than I do. His blog is a dynamic mix of reflections on the realm of literary fiction, and musings on his own works-in-progress. If you love classic and contemporary literature, and you care deeply about the art of writing, this is definitely the blog for you.

I Make Stories. The Blog of K.M. Alexander
K.M. Alexander released his debut novel, The Stars Were Right, last year and his blog is an honest blow-by-blow of what it takes to write and publish novels and how he’s making it happen. He includes regular updates that show exactly where he’s at in terms of creative momentum, and extremely helpful reviews of products for writers and other creative types. K.M. is the one who introduces me to the new and innovative in the writing world.

Writingeekery by MJ Bush
MJ covers craft, character, and all the layers in between. She describes her blog as “dedicated to exploring the layers that fiction writing entails. The whole human experience is entwined in our craft. Writingeekery is a safe place to dive deep into your learning process. It embraces that there is always more to learn.” I couldn’t agree more, and I urge every writer to put Writingeekery on their must-read blog list.

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  • Reply Justin Meckes 24 March, 2014 at 9:58 am

    It’s pretty brave to write without an outline. I’ve had a couple projects crash and burn that way. And I have to talk about my work in its early stages. It helps me decide if I’m going to commit.

    Thanks for writing about your work.

  • Reply MJ Bush 24 March, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks for tagging me, Lauren.

    Oh, on G+ there are silent writing hangouts hosted by R.J. Blain if you ever need a boost on a non-meetup day. 🙂

  • Reply Jon Simmonds 25 March, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Fantastic to find out a bit more about the ‘real’ Lauren Sapala! 🙂 Thanks for such an open and intriguing insight. And I really like the sound of your current novel. Quite a scary place inside your head, isn’t it??

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 25 March, 2014 at 10:20 am

      Thank you Jon! And you know, that is what most people say when I tell them about the plots of my books. But it actually doesn’t seem scary in here at all! More like, just really, really weird. 😉

  • Reply Marie Ann Bailey 25 March, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    Lauren, this was so fascinating! It’s wonderful to read about your writing process since you spend most of your (blogging) time helping the rest of us 🙂 I’ll have to look into “transgressive fiction.” I’ve read Ellis and Palahniuk and my writing about sociopaths is definitely tame compared to them, but you’ve peaked my interest. I also like how you mention that your first 3 novels were based on your life and sort of needed to be written and out of the way so you could move on. Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 26 March, 2014 at 10:07 am

      Thanks so much Marie 🙂 This post was hard for me, because I do find it hard to open up about my own stuff. I’ve resolved to do more of it in the future though! So grateful for your kind words and support.

  • Reply Paul Sutton Reeves 26 March, 2014 at 7:32 am

    Thanks very much for the mention, Lauren!

    It was fascinating to gain a glimpse into the processes involved in your writing. I’d second what Jon says. The description of your current work-in-progress makes me want to read it already.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 26 March, 2014 at 10:08 am

      Thanks Paul! If I get up the nerve to share my book someday, you’re one of the first on my list as a reader.

  • Reply Why I Finally Started Trusting My Heart | Lauren Sapala 27 March, 2014 at 8:51 am

    […] earlier this week, when I posted 4 Secrets of My Writing Process, I got a huge response from my readers. They let me know that it was cool to get a glimpse of the […]

  • Reply hilarycustancegreen 27 March, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    By sharing this you have made us more like friends in the same boat (less like a student). Thank you for earlier posts, the comments were closed when I got back from holiday.

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