So today I have a special guest post by Stacy Overby, whose new novel, Tattoos, comes out this month. She writes a bit about her writing process even though she’s a pantser and has limited time to write. Here’s a bit about Stacy.
Stacy Overby is a columnist and graphic designer at www.ourwriteside.com. Her short stories and poems have been featured in multiple anthologies, online, and in lit journals. Scath Oran is her first chapbook and is expecting her first novel, Tattoos: A Black Ops Novel, out soon. She is the program director for an adolescent dual diagnosis treatment program by day and an author by night. Her day job provides inspiration for many of her stories. When not at work or writing, she and her husband are playing with their son, hiking, camping, or involved in other outdoor activities – if it is not too cold. She, along with her social media contacts, can be found at www.thisisnothitchhikersguide.com.
And without further ado, here’s her post.
I sat in front of my keyboard for quite a while trying to figure out what to write this guest post about. That’s what happens to me when something is left wide open. I freeze. At least most of the time. Occasionally genius strikes, but not as often as I would like. Mostly this is because I usually have so many things going on even my ADHD brain can’t handle it. But, my novel, Tattoos, releases in a couple weeks and I needed to come up with something fast. Like last week fast. Then it hit me, I could do a post about just this. What is a writing process for someone like me?
To understand what I mean by that, let me give you a quick snapshot of my life, because it’s not the life many other indie authors I know at least have. See, professionally, I am the program director for an adolescent mental health and substance abuse residential treatment program. I have my license as a drug and alcohol counselor and have worked in the field for going on nine years now. As the director, I often work 50 or more hours per week. Some of this is because I have a bad habit of taking on a lot, but some of it also is that I work for a small non-profit. While I’m the program director, I also tend to wear other hats there as well. I could give you more of my professional resume, but I think you get the picture from this on the professional front.
Then, there’s my family. While technically I have not been diagnosed ADHD simply because I have not found a need to do so, my husband has been diagnosed. This means I need to support the challenges he faces, such as time management and organization. These are not always my strong suits, but I’m better than him at them. Plus, I have a six-year-old son who is active and loves to be involved in things. Between the two of them, I have to be a travel agent, chauffeur, home decorator, chef, personal assistant, accountant, and more. Don’t get me wrong. They both do what they can to help me, but all that executive stuff usually falls in my lap.
Finally, there’s my writing. Yep. I manage to squeeze it into the rest of this chaos. And there’s one important thing to know about my writing before we get into the part about my process when I wrote Tattoos. I’m a pantser. Outlines and such are pretty much anathema to me. I did manage a mind-map of a novel idea once. Haven’t gotten the novel written yet, but I’m sure it’ll be nothing like what I’ve sketched out. You’d think that with all the organizational, executive functioning skills I’ve been forced to live on, both to deal with my own ADHD behaviors as well as managing the rest of my life, I’d be pretty good at using them. But, no. I can’t. I get the idea and then I run with it. It’s kind of like watching a movie, only I’m writing the script as it plays out.
Knowing this, it may beg the question—what writing process? If you pants everything, then there isn’t really a process, is there? Yes, and no. On one hand, the process is minimal. I don’t outline. I don’t plan for chapters. I don’t do involved character building, world building, etc. I just write.
On the other hand, there is still a process that happened. The idea for Tattoos came from a couple things coming together. First, I had been reading this series about these tough, ultra-kick-ass guys who form an organization to save the universe from the evils of the government. While there were things I loved about the series, it also was a romance series. Sure, it had sci-fi elements, settings, etc., but some of the most central elements to the plots for each book in the series came down to a romantic relationship. Not necessarily a problem, but not always what I want to read.
The next piece of this puzzle that brought about the idea for Tattoos is that a number of other space-faring sci-fi books tend to be more hard-core with the science part. Sure, there are arguments that even these aren’t hard science fiction because of the whole faster than light travel issue, but it’s bigger than that. These books, again while very good books, leaned heavily on science and the technology parts. It’s as if the technology was really the main character in the book. For me, these aren’t always very relaxing reads.
The final piece of the puzzle came in when I had to come up with something for NaNoWriMo back in 2011. It was the first year I participated in NaNo and I needed an idea. Fast. I’d been late coming to the NaNo table that year and if I wanted any prayer of hitting that 50,000-word goal, I needed something stat (Sensing a theme here? Yes, I tend to end up in a position of cutting things down to the wire no matter how hard I try not to). And the first inklings of what became Tattoos saw the light of day. What if I wrote the kind of sci-fi book I wanted to read? More character driven than technology driven, but with all the fun technological toys. More along the lines of Star Wars than John Scalzi books.
My first draft of Tattoos turned out like most people’s first drafts from NaNo do—pretty bad. I had the bones for a good book and I’d “won” NaNo, but that’s about it. One mistake I made at that point was trying to edit it right away. I got sucked into the temptation of getting it published on Smashwords right away, since being included in a wider distributing catalogue was a prize for NaNo that year. After having written that much on it and then trying to edit right away, I needed a break. I struggled to see the issues in the book and had a hard time figuring out where to go with the issues I could see. So, I walked away from Tattoos for a while.
A while turned into dabbling off and on with editing on it over the intervening years. I wrote two more books in the series, one of which still doesn’t have an ending. The Black Ops universe got bigger and more populated. The characters told me about so many more things going on than I realized when I first wrote Tattoos. I also learned more about writing and the writing process, including that I should not self-edit my work. I do well editing when I am working on someone else’s story, but I am too blind to issues in my own.
Enter Our Write Side into the picture. I’ve been working with the wonderful team at Our Write Side for a while now and figured it was time. Time to dust off my manuscript of Tattoos and bring it out into the light. The OWS team has been great to work with. From editing to marketing to just plain putting up with my crazy life, they’re wonderful. Because, of course, all of this has been crammed in around swimming lessons, choir practice, church activities, Cub Scouts, work functions, family time, and more. They worked with me to put together the book that comes out on December 15th. While I am scared to death to see this novel go out into the world—it means a lot with the history it’s had in my life—I am excited.
In the end, I wanted to share this journey with you for several reasons. One, I hope it helps motivate you not to give up on NaNo projects. Sure, they require a lot of work after that initial draft, but there’s gold to be found in that first draft. Two, I hope it reassures pantsers out there that it’s okay to write like this and you can still get published. Seriously, my first draft of Tattoos was all one long Word document. No chapter divisions, no word count goals, not even a clear end point until I got there. Finally, just because you may have a family and a full-time day job that eats a lot of time, it doesn’t mean you can’t do this, too. I get the added stress and challenges. As I sit typing this, the house is finally quiet after my hubby and son getting home from Cub Scout Camp and excitedly telling me about their day. Look for the opportunities to write and you’ll find them. Honest. I sincerely hope this glimpse into the process that birthed Tattoos has been helpful. Check out the book. Come find me on my website—www.thisisnothitchhikersguide.com—which is also where you can find all my social media. And, as always, reach out. Ask me questions. Let me know what you think. Tell me how I might be able to help you. Thank you, awesome readers, and always know where your towel is.
And here’s a little bit about her new novel.
One hushed cry in the middle of the night, and Eli Thorson’s life unravels. A highly trained Black Ops specialist, he is used to danger, but Eli’s path forces him to confront the illusions he’s been taught his whole life — ones that make him question all the good he thought he was doing. Unable to work for a command that defiles the oaths he swore, he works to untangle the web of lies and deceit he finds woven throughout his worlds. The tattooed marks of his profession run more than skin deep. As a Specialist it is his duty to protect the people, the laws, and all the United Earth Government stands for, even if it means taking down the entire Black Ops division to do it.
Preorder it today at
So whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, happy writing!