I am happy to share a guest post by author Emma Cyrus, who relates...
Putting the Microscope on How I Write
Many thanks to The Reading Addict for hosting a tour stop for me this week.
In stepping back from writing Life Without Shoes and comparing that to how the second book is taking shape, I observe that they are pretty different writing processes—in terms of how they were created as well as how they were edited.
Life Without Shoes started in 2010 with the title, a part of the first chapter and beginning research notes in a OneNote notebook. For various reasons, I continued research (into the locales in Northern California where I created fictional settings, into mainstream spiritual communities, into the county and city governance structure, and so forth) throughout 2010.
Then, there was a break in the work for almost five years, when a friend of mine recommended I take a memoir writing course at Gotham Writers Workshop. I had no intention of writing a memoir, but I got good feedback on my writing, so I plunged forward and took Mystery I the next term. I pulled out the little work I’d done on Shoes and dusted it off. I was more than a little nervous about facing the professor and fellow students with something completely untested.
By January of 2016, I’d made a commitment to finishing Shoes. I was taking Mystery II, and I realized I had to get serious or else. I was at the end of where I could go with other students’ feedback. The biggest change that term was moving from omniscient POV to two-person POV. I realized I didn’t yet have the skill to pull off omniscient.
After I finished that course, I hired that professor as a mentor, and he got me through the first draft by November. I did most of the work in Scrivener, with good and bad results. It took me another year to get through the edits and all the pre-publication preparation. I found an excellent copy editor and a cover design artist. I was learning to do everything myself from scratch.
Life Without Shoes was published by my own imprint, Square Root Press, on November 28, 2017, more than seven years from when I started. Most of that time now seems like a gestation period – not so much of the book but of me considering myself a writer.
Before I’d finished the edits on Shoes, I ‘heard’ (from my muse?) the general title and first chapter of this next book. As soon as Shoes was published, I gave myself a few months off, took a Character Development course, and then jumped back in, with this new professor as mentor. I’m now on track to have a complete draft by the end of this month, which will go out to BETA readers for the month of December.
This one is happening very differently. First, I have all the feedback from the first book to show me where to improve. While Shoes was more of a ‘pantser’ project (with a little resistance to questioning that approach), this next book is following a more classic method—a general plot outline, character sketches, help from editorial software that picks up things like passive voice, consultations with my mentor at strategic points, more knowledge about structuring scenes and chapters.
This more in-depth approach is paying off. I can dictate my first draft and then go back and improve. Just that little bit of distance helps me see where I need to tighten or elaborate, enhance a POV or take clichés out of dialogue.
If you’re a writer and are interested in some of the technical assistance I’ve been using (software, online instruction, etc.), send me a note at email@example.com.
In the great tradition of The Name of the Rose, the Brother Cadfael mysteries and Grantchester, Life Without Shoes confronts a modern-day monastic with a horrifying crime.
Father Ambrose has found a simple life leading a spiritual community in Northern California. He spends his days on guiding the farming and teaching meditation. Then, someone dumps a body in one of their orchards.
Now, the violence of the modern world has come crashing through the gates. He wants Sheriff Charlie Cormley to believe the body has nothing to do with them, but it’s not that easy. He must take on the role of sleuth to protect his community and find the truth. He finds himself moving out into the world in ways he never imagined, and life at New Life will never be the same.
She slipped the paper out of the sleeve and looked with amusement at the cover story: “Exclusive: Interview with Father Ambrose at New Life!” Under the headline was a large photo of Ambrose sitting at his desk, smiling at the camera. The text started below, continuing to page two.
“Do you want me to read it to you?” she asked.
“No, I signed off on it last night. I’ll look at it later. If it’s different from what I approved, that’s likely to ruin my day, so I’ll just postpone it awhile. He’s got this thing about picturing me heroically. I can’t fault his logic from a journalistic standpoint, but it’s very uncomfortable for me. I just hope New Life benefits from all the attention.”
“If the only one who doesn’t see you as a hero is you, we’ll be fine. Like you said, we’re faced with an opportunity. You might not like it, but this is the way it’s playing itself out. We don’t want reporters accosting our folks at the Farmers’ Market or banging down the gate here, so we have to give them a story that satisfies their readers. Just remember, you can create pretty much any picture you want to. Let’s tell our story by telling stories about you!”
Ambrose groaned. “I don’t want to be famous! I just want a nice, quiet harvest with good sales, no drama, no bodies in bags, no policemen.”
“We’re a little beyond that, don’t you think? I don’t usually say things like ‘suck it up,’ but that’s what I mean. We all need you to do this, and we appreciate that you have the capacity.”
NOTE: This book is on sale for $0.99(please check price before purchasing)
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Emma was born in West Virginia and lived there until she was in high school, when her family moved to Pittsburgh. After high school, she went to Boston to go to college. She worked in different small and startup businesses until she moved into a yoga community in Pennsylvania. There, she’s worked on various projects and taught yoga.
She started the Father Ambrose series as a way of pulling together her love of good mystery stories with her deepening appreciation of the real-life magic and mystery of inner work. Father Ambrose has many characteristics in common with the leaders of her community, but his voice is probably hers, or at least what she thinks her voice would be, if she were living inside the parameters of his life.
She’s discovering the compelling nature of writing fiction and the surprises of working with what other writers have called their ‘muse.’ The creative process seems to have its own timetable and logic. The best results seem to come from stilling her own personal voice and allowing that ‘muse’ to speak.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The tour dates can be found here