Monday, February 17, 2014

Guest post - Donna Alward on the writing process

Last week, I posted my blog on the writing process. As Donna Alward's website is currently undergoing a few changes, I offered to host her here - so, take it away, Donna!

Big huge humongous thanks to my pal Kate (and RoNA finalist – wait double finalist!) for hosting me with my “My Writing Process” blog. Kate’s SUCH an inspiration to our “writing group” and I’ve known her for yonks. But since she joined the Romance line we’ve chatted even more. Sometimes even about writing. Mostly about food. And exercise. And kids. :) Okay – now on to my writing process!

1) What am I working on?
Right now I’m working on a couple of stories. I have a hard time shifting from one set of characters to another at the same time, and both proposals are approved and they both have the same deadline date (fun!). So I chose to write the one that’s calling to me most - Christmas at Seashell Cottage. It’s a 60k story that will be out in digital later this year to coincide with the release of Treasure on Lilac Lane from St. Martin’s Press. As soon as that’s on the way to my editor there, I’m back to finishing up the second story in a trilogy for Harlequin American – a Valentine’s Day story in my upcoming Crooked Creek Cowboys series.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Oh, this is a hard question. How does it differ? By voice, I suppose. I’m a farm girl, and yet my westerns have less of a ranch-y core and more of an emotional centre. That’s what it’s all about for me – the emotion. My series for St. Martins isn’t quite like any East Coast, Small Town Contemporary series I’ve read. Again, they’re about the emotional core and the small town setting, which makes them very intimate. There’s also a little hint of mystery in them. It’s one of those things I have a difficult time putting my finger on – perhaps a reader or editor or reviewer could pinpoint what makes me different. Perhaps it’s that I’m a down-home, Canadian girl that makes the difference. :)

3) Why do I write what I do?
Because Romance is awesome. Because I love happy endings. There are enough unhappy ones in the world that I can’t control or change, but maybe, just maybe, someone will read one of my stories and give a happy, contented sigh at the end. In my stories good guys finish first. The girl gets her happy ever after. Life might not always be perfect, but by gum, they’re going to fight their way through it with the one they love beside them. I don’t think you can really ask for anything better than that. And when a reader e-mails to let me know that my story touched or helped them in some way, it’s the best feeling in the world.

4) How does your writing process work?
It ain’t pretty. I’m a pantser, so I don’t know what’s going to happen all the time. I have my characters, a situation, and a basic idea of what their problem is and why they can’t seem to find happiness. Then I just dig in and work through it. I probably spend the most time on the opening 3 chapters, making sure I’ve got a fairly solid foundation before moving on. Then I work linearly through the story, learning as I go. I’ve learned to trust the process. When I get lightbulbs, chances are I’ve subconsciously laid the groundwork earlier on. I work right through to the end.

As I’m working, though, I always go through the last day’s work BEFORE I write new words. Not for a long time, just a single pass, but I invariably flesh a few things out and get into the rhythm of the story before carrying on. I try to write a minimum of 2-3000 words a day, especially in order to meet my deadlines these past few years. I really guard my time between 9 and 3 p.m. carefully, because those are my “alone” hours when everyone is at school (even the husband, who teaches college). I also try to keep myself balanced by NOT working on evenings or weekends, or if I do, it’s “light” stuff like blog writing, setting up promotions, answering e-mail, that sort of thing.


Tara MacDonald said...

I love that the small town stories are different from the usual ones I read for contemporary. Intimate with a "hint" of mystery...!

Caroline said...

Great blog, Donna. I love reading about author process. We all work differently but productively in our own way. (Unless you are Kate who is in the Nora Roberts league of course!)

Pat Amsden said...

Your books sound interesting Donna. And it's always interesting to hear how authors write!

Donna Alward said...

Thanks everyone! It's true, Caroline - everyone has their own process. :)