Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Guest Blogger Gini Koch on Process

By Gini Koch

I'm excited to launch the very first "How The Do It" guest blog, a new column that will showcase other authors and how they write.

Today, we have Gini Koch talking about process, and five common things the "experts" say you need to do. Gini's debut novel, Touched by an Alien, releases today, so go check it out.

Take it away, Gini...

How I Write Unconventionally. Or at least, so I thought when I began what is loftily called “the writer’s journey” but more commonly referred to around my house as “how to keep Gini quiet and occupied while the rest of us get on with our lives.” Hey, whatever works.

And that, truly, is what I do and the advice I give -- do whatever works for you.

Outline: Yea or Nay?I didn’t write for at least two decades because I was told by a teacher -- a teacher I knew to be a nasty idiot, I’m forced to add -- that the only way to write anything was to use an outline. (The power of teachers is vast and said power is not always used for good, unfortunately.)

Now, outlines are fine for term papers and business presentations, and I know a lot of writers who swear by them. But for me they kill my creativity. So, I’d try to outline, get completely frustrated, spend hours moving things around, have nothing to show for all that time and effort, and conclude I couldn’t write.

Wrong. I couldn’t write using an outline. Because I’m a linear writer. I start at the title, write the first line, and when I get to the end, I’m done. I don’t know who did it or why when I start writing; I discover what’s going on at the same time my characters do. It’s a lot more fun (at least for me) that way.

Silence: Yea or Nay?I was told that, to truly be a writer, I had to write in silence, locked away in some cubbyhole, snarling at any who came near and might disturb my precious quiet.

*Insert loud snort-noise here.*

I can’t work in silence. I hear everything if it’s quiet, and it’s all distracting. I need music, rock music, and chaos. The best writing I do is either late at night with my music blaring as loud as I can get away with, or when my husband and daughter are watching TV or a movie while my music’s going, they’re talking, and I’m sometimes joining in. Keep in mind that we live in a small house -- if I turn around in my office, I can not only see everyone in the living room, I can see the TV, too. I can, have and do write in crowded bars. I can write on a plane, in a train, with a goat, on a boat, or eating green eggs and ham with Sam I Am. Especially if Sam is spinning some decent tunes. (Or if Sam is droning on, I’ll just write while he covers the ‘white noise’ portion of my writing needs.)

Finish and Then Edit: Yea or Nay?I edit as I go along. If I realize something needs cutting, it gets cut, right now, while I’m aware of it. I re-read chapters as I write and edit along the way. Normally I’ll write however much I’m doing today/tonight, then re-read it after dinner or the next morning, depending, making necessary edits and changes, and then roll into this new day’s writing.

I save everything I cut in a notes/deletes document (one per book or short story, occasionally per series), that way I can get it back any time if I decide I liked the original better, want to use it in a different place, etc.

Finish What You Started Before You Start Something Else: Yea or Nay?I have, at minimum, a dozen WIPs going at any one time. If I’d listened to this particular bit of advice or obeyed this little rule, I wouldn’t be published. At all, anywhere, or in anything. I work on whatever strikes my fancy, until one WIP will grab me and say, “It’s me, I’m the one, finish me now.” And then I do.

Give Yourself a Set Writing Time: Yea or Nay?
I’m sure this works for a lot of people. For me, it brings out all the contrariness you’d normally associate with a mule. Writing is joy for me, and joy does not have a schedule, thankyouverymuch. I ensure that I write every day, but when, where, how, and how much is up to me, and only to me, not to Master Clock.

I’m sure you’ve sensed the trend -- I said ‘nay’ to all of these ‘rules’, and a lot more besides. At first, I thought I was the only one being disobedient. But as time, research, conferences and conventions showed, I wasn’t. Not only do these things work for me, they work for a lot of other successful writers out there.

I obey two rules only:
1. Money flows TO the author.
2. Grammar, spelling, punctuation and syntax matter, particularly to agents and editors.

That’s it. Everything else is whatever works, when it’s working, and something else when it’s not.

The bottom line is simple: There is no ‘one right way’ to do anything. Do what comes naturally. If it doesn’t get you the results you want, experiment if you have to with different approaches. But don’t let anybody tell you how to write your stories. All the pundits are merely telling you how they write their stories. Can you learn from them? Sure. Should you take everything they say as golden? Never.

Well, other than me. Because what I say is: Do what works for you.

Now, let’s go be writers out there.


Gini Koch lives in the American Southwest, works her butt off (sadly, not literally) by day, and writes by night with the rest of the beautiful people. The first book in her Alien series from DAW Books, Touched by an Alien, releases April 6, 2010, with Alien Tango coming in December 2010. Visit her at her website.

About Touched by an Alien... Marketing manager Katherine “Kitty” Katt steps into the middle of what appears to be a domestic dispute turned ugly. And it only gets uglier when the man turns into a winged monster, straight out of a grade-Z horror movie, and goes on a killing spree. Though Kitty should probably run away, she springs into action to take the monster down.

In the middle of the chaos a handsome hunk named Jeff Martini appears, sent by the “agency” to perform crowd control. He’s Kitty’s kind of guy, no matter what planet he’s from. And from now on, for Kitty, things are going to be sexy, dangerous, wild, and out of this world.


  1. Fantastic opening to this feature. I really liked this post because that's very close to how I write, and it's nice to know I'm not one of the odd few out.

  2. Thanks for the tips. And Gini, it's inspiring to see another writer who squeezes in time to write while working like me.

  3. I'm with atsiko. Every "Yay" or "Nay" had me answering what I do... which matched Ms. Koch's.


  4. Love it. I can tell I'll enjoy Gini's writing just by reading her piece here. What a great new feature, Janice!

  5. What a great post and a great blog series! Alright. I admit it. I'm guilty of looking at other writer's processes with envy at times, thinking they must have stumbled onto some secret I haven't. But, maybe just trusting your gut's Yay and Nay, and having fun along the way is the real secret.
    Thanks, Gini!

  6. Amberscottproject, you nailed it. Trust your gut and have fun along the way. I've gotten in three guest posts so far, and all three are totally different from me and each other. It's fun (and comforting) to see how varied everyone's style is.

  7. /Give Yourself a Set Writing Time: Yea or Nay?/

    Thanks for shedding a different light on this one than what I've read so often. I'm not much of a writer (I'm interested in the craft and have some fun now and then writing little things), I'm more inclined to illustration. I've tried to make schedules to study things related to illustration, or just draw at all.

    It doesn't work, I never get anything done. I never even get started, even. It's a good feeling to read others say schedules don't work for them concerning their art&craft, glad to know I'm not the only one who has that feeling :)

  8. Glad this is resonating for others! I think the hardest thing for me was ignoring what other people told me I 'had' to do...or not do.

    In addition to what I listed, I was also told that funny didn't sell (trust me, Touched by an Alien is indeed funny), that science fiction didn't sell (yeah, it's Science Fiction, too), that first person was bad (shocker alert: written in first person), that there was too much romance for a mainstream SF/F publisher to want it (um, DAW is one of the big 3 in SF/F), and so on.

    If I'd listened, I wouldn't have a book out today.

    Like Janice said, go with your gut. Write the best book you can, but write the book YOU want to write, and in the way you will write it best.

  9. Not sure how I missed this yesterday, but better late than never. I really liked this, Gini. Well said. :)

  10. Very informative. I do it this way too. But then I've always had a hard head and did whatever I wanted not what anyone told me to do.

    Well... 'cept for Gini.. I always listen to Gini.. (snickering... we both know how "true" this is)

  11. Great post!
    I've known I had to write my own way from the moment my creative writing teacher told me I couldn't give a poor, crippled man a wife as 'crippled (ugly, he called it) men do not have wives'.

  12. I like this post a lot! I answered 2 yeas and 3 nays. I'm glad you shed light on the fact there are many ways to be productive and successful and it depends on what works for you!

  13. I'm with atsiko too; I found myself agreeing with most of the responses. While I've never had a dozen WIPs going at the same time, I have had up to five. :D

  14. You've inspired me to buck against all of your advice! You described all the ways I currently write, and now I see I have the freedom to pre-write and discipline myself. What I will do, however, is to make sure to share your article with my students this morning because it is undeniable that one cannot impose any single process. Cute article. Thank you.

  15. LOL, Tim, glad you enjoyed it.