13 September 2010

Guest Post: Author Cate Tiernan (Blog Tour)

What is my writing style like?

The act of writing is as individualistic as the books that come out of it. If you ask fifty writers about their process, you’ll get fifty different answers. With maybe a little overlap. But of the writers I know, we each work differently, and we each work in the way that is most suited to us.

My own process involves a lot of whining and procrastination. After twenty years in the business, this has evolved into an art form, and I have to respect that.

But first, I think of a character that I’d like to write about, and put her in a situation I find interesting. Sort of think of a plot. Then I run the idea by a couple of people, like my daughters, my husband, and my agent.

I start writing a broad outline that’s sometimes pretty different from my original idea, because it’s evolved during the talking-about-it stage. From the broad outline, I hammer out a chapter-by-chapter outline that’s about 25-30 pages long. It will change during the actual writing process, but it’s what I work from. I send the outline to my agent, and if she finds any huge plot problems, she will gently ask if I meant for my heroine to do something in chapter seven that I made a huge deal of her not being able to do in chapter two. Stuff like that.

Then I start writing. I start at the beginning of the outline and write it in sequence until the end. I have a friend who actually writes out of sequence, writing the fun scenes first, and then filling in all the other scenes, and that whole thought makes my stomach hurt. I could never do that. Things change during the writing, characters change, characters make decisions that I didn’t expect that take the plot in a different direction. That’s the exciting, amazing part about writing--when you feel that the characters are living their lives, and you’re just writing down what they’re doing, like a court reporter. That’s when words fly onto the paper and I look up and hours have passed, and I’ve done more pages than I’d thought, and it’s been a great day.

Then there are the other days, when I sit at my desk and feel blank, or distracted, or impatient, or discouraged. I write something and then delete it. I write several pages and then delete them. I realize that I didn’t address a plot point, like, forty pages back, and have to go in and fix that and restructure some things. Or a character is evolving into someone who doesn’t do what I need them to do, and I have to work the plot around that, or force them into being someone they’re not.

This is where the whining and procrastination come in. It’s one thing to be a witness of and participant in the exciting, elemental force that is creative writing, where you read something you wrote and marvel at it and had no idea you had anything like that inside you--and it’s another thing to feel that you have zero talent, you are all written out, your career is over, and all the readers who write in with compliments are just victims of an elaborate hoax. Sometimes you can feel both things within the space of five minutes, which is hard on you and everyone around you.

Then I get up and put a load of laundry in, do some other relatively mindless chore that will free my brain up and get me out of a rut. Then I eat something, like cookies. Then I look at Lolcats and a couple of other websites that are funny and/or inspiring. Sometimes I walk around outside, or lie on my back and watch the clouds for a while.

Then I sit down again, wishing I had learned to type properly and not just with five fingers. Eventually, a thought hits me, and that triggers other thoughts, and once again I have to sit tight and hang on because my characters are pulling me along with them, pulling me into their world, and it’s an amazing and wonderful place to be. The act of hoping for that moment to come again is what keeps me going, makes me try again, makes me sit down at my desk.

And at the end of the day, I’ll read what I wrote, clean it up, fix typos, read it again--and marvel at it, because I love it and I had no idea I had anything like that inside me. And the next day, the process will begin again.

You can find Cate Online:

Website | Twitter

Cate Tiernan is the author of the Sweep & Balefire Series and most recently, the first book in the Immortal Beloved Series.

Check out my Immortal Beloved Review

Ordering information for all books:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders | The Book Depository

A HUGE thank you to Cate for stopping by and writing up such an amazing guest post. The insight into her writing style was extremely interesting. It's always nice to learn more about an author and letting us get a better idea of how she creates was a pleasure to read and share. Thanks again Cate!

*I am not compensated at all for any of the links withing this page.

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  1. Why am I always late to the party? :) I just discovered Ms. Tiernan's work when I picked up Immortal Beloved at Borders the other day. I'm almost done and I'm liking it so much that I bought the first book in the Sweep series to see if I might like that too. :) Great post, thank you!

  2. Great post!

    Cate is one of my favorite authors (I love Sweep)! It's nice to know she has off days too! :)

  3. Always so fascinating to hear about other authors processes! Thanks for the great interview!

  4. Great interview! I became a fan of Ms Tiernan's work about five years ago when I inhaled her Balefire books. So pleased to have something new to dive into. As an aspiring writer, this interview was so helpful -- a good reminder about the work of writing! :)


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