The Process of Writing a Book: Conception and Writing

Monday, May 7, 2018

My poetry book, flowers from smoke, will be available on May 25th and I’m still a bit in awe that it’s an actual book. I feel like I’ve been writing it forever, it’s pretty much been my little secret and now the world knows.

In an attempt to be more vocal and share more of myself with the world I thought I’d tell you guys about the process of bringing flowers from smoke to life – from conception to completion. A lot of the time I imagine writers cooped up inside their home for a year with no contact, moody and grumpy as they toil away to complete their story. Anyone else, or just me? And while that may be the case for some, it wasn’t my experience. So in continuation with the idea of everyone having different paths to achieve their goals, I wanted to present my experience in writing a book (in a Q&A format for easy skimming … I know you guys skim, no judgment lol).

Q. Did you set aside time to write solely for the book?

No. This book was driven 100% by emotion. I wrote when I felt something worth writing, and I stopped when I didn’t. Because I didn’t have any agent/literary requirements or timeline I was free to do that. Some writing I do can be forced (blog posts, articles, e-mails, copy for businesses, etc.), others can’t. I didn’t want to force this book. I told myself it would be finished when it was finished, and I allowed my emotion and instinct to guide me to the end.

Q. How did you know it was ‘done’? 

The story told me. I just wrote until my instinct told me, this is how you leave it. The moment I heard that, I left it.

Q. How did you choose the title? 

The title happened before the writing itself. I was sitting at home, playing around on my laptop, and wrote “flowers and smoke, a collection of erotic poetry and prose.” I had no idea what it would be, or if it would turn into anything worth keeping, I just loved the phrase. It sounded so soft and sensual, yet dark and seductive. It encaptured the story perfectly.  

I ended up changing it to flowers from smoke halfway through, and while there are erotic poems included, it ended up not being a complete erotic collection.

Q. How long did the writing take, start to finish? 

I started writing a book in November 2016. I started writing solely for this collection sometime in June 2017. I finished everything around January 2018.

Q. How did you deal with writer’s block? 

I deal with two distinctive types of writer’s block. First is the block that comes when I can’t find what to write about at all. The second comes when I know the emotion/situation I want to write about, but struggle to find the right words to articulate it.

When the first happened I would just walk away. Like I mentioned, I didn’t want to force anything for this book. When the second happened I took a cue from Reyna Biddy who says “doubt and write simultaneously.” So I would write a bunch of nonsense until I figured out where I was going.

Q. Were there times you doubted what you were writing?

Yes, but honestly while I was writing I wasn’t focused on ‘this is going to be a book.’ I wrote it because I had things to say, emotions I needed to make sense of, and because it was therapeutic. One of the reasons I am so proud of this book is because it’s so raw. I didn’t write it for anyone. I didn’t write it with any intention, I wrote it because it needed to be written. The major doubts happened during editing, honestly. I felt most confident during the writing.

Q. At what point did you realize I’m going to publish this?

As I wrote more poems and it began to shape into a story. At first I was just writing poems here and there because they were how I felt, but one day I was reading through everything I’d written start-to-finish and thought “oh shit, this is a story.” And from there I knew it would be published. I wasn’t sure when I would get to that point, but I knew it was meant it happen.

Q. What is one thing you think went well with the writing process?

I focused solely on the writing. I didn’t think about the editing or the cover or anything until later. All those questions were there, of course (How will I get this done? How the fuck do I get a cover? How do I format it?) but I told myself I would deal with each hurdle as they came, not a moment before.

Q. What is one thing you would do differently?

I would have been better organized. When it came time to edit everything together I was pulling poems from 15+ various Word documents, combing through random files in my ‘notes’ app on my iphone, revisiting old e-mails and texts, and shifting through mounds and mounds of loose leaf paper. When I get the inspiration for a poem or line I tend to just scribble it off on whatever is closest. Let’s just say for my next book I’m keeping things in ONE document. Two, max.

Q. What tools did you use? 

I used Word on a macbook. I know there are people who use special programs, but Word is just simple for me.

Q. What was the greatest challenge?

Being patient. There are were so many times I just wanted it to be done! I remember a few phases when I thought it’d never be finished. As cliché as it sounds, the end comes sooner than you think. One day it seems so far away, and then suddenly you look down and you’re like ‘shit, I’m almost there!’

I hope this helps, or provides a cool insight. Whether you’re a writer or not I’ve always thought it’s cool to peek inside people’s process. My best friend is a singer/songwriter who plays various instruments, and the concept of creating a song from start to finish is so foreign to me. I’m always fascinated by her process. Next week I’ve got a continuation of this post focusing on editing. If there is anything specific you want to know about editing, please feel free to ask.

In the meantime drop any questions below, and please share a bit of your work process too! I’m intrigued by all you.

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