2018 releases

Hell's Bell
Scent of the Jaguar
His Outback Nanny
The Queen's Game
366 Days of Flash Fiction
On the Horizon: Simple worlds of speculative adventure
Lusting the Enemy

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Darklight On...Michelle de Rooy

Today's Darklight On... is with Michelle de Rooy. Welcome, Michelle!

Research is a dirty word.

Why? Because it steals all your focus and insists you simply must click on those links at the side of the page!  J   

I was asked to write about my writing process, and I'm rather ashamed to say, it’s pretty non-existent. Don’t get me wrong, I have fantastic intentions, especially at the beginning, but I have the dubious honor of being an out and out pantser.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a pantser, BUT I have a chronic inability to schedule my time efficiently, therefore pantsing is a bit of a hit and miss affair with me. And believe me, I’ve tried plotting. Right down to the nth degree. To put it simply – I couldn’t write the book. My muse basically said, “Nope. You’ve already written it… moving right along!”

Okay. Now I’ve said that, my process could be called plotting by some. I'm an Audio/Visual person, so I see and hear things like I'm watching a movie in Technicolor before me. I hear their conversations, I see their expressions. I see the forest around them, the air stirring the leaves on the trees, the horses snuffling and stomping their hooves wanting to get underway. Tears poured down my face as my hero had to kill his horse which had been hit with a crossbow bolt. I saw the whole grisly thing before me.

But I didn’t see it as I wrote it. It had run around in my head for a long time before I wrote it down. This particular story has been in my head in one form or another, with the same characters, since I was sixteen years old. I tinker with them in my head, taking the story one way, then back to the point it all changed, going in another direction if I don’t like how that ends up. So I wasn’t writing something unknown. I just hadn’t storyboarded it. Some strange, contrary part of my brain insists that if I do that, it’s not worth writing the manuscript. *shrug* I’ve found I can't change it, so I have to go with it!

I always know my first chapter. Always. I may change bits and pieces in that chapter, but so far, I seem to be starting in the right place. I may see/know a few in the middle, and I almost always know the final chapter, the final line. These are my goal posts.

The rest? Who would know?

I tend to write dialogue first. In all the contests I’ve entered, only one judge has told me my dialogue sucks. And I mean she said it SUCKS. Even suggested books to help with my ‘stilted phrasing’ and stiff speech. That’s cool. But I did laugh, because that same MS has had so many others comment that they think the snappy dialogue is what sets it apart. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, I just didn’t agree with hers.

So, dialogue first. My first draft – if done as a proper first draft – is mostly dialogue, a couple of speech tags, and a reference to the environment; ie: trees, palace, house, ocean. Just so I can place where I am at the time. I must admit, rereading that first draft can be a bit sterile. It’s a bit like, “Lights, camera, setting please, Michelle!”

I’ll write my first chapter, then my final one, then a middle one. I write what comes to me, when it comes. I’ve tried writing consecutively and it does not work. Not for me. I dry up and my muse packs his bag, pops on his panama hat and waves goodbye from the deck of a cruise ship, sipping my banana daiquiri! Rude bugger.

Once that’s done, I go back and reread what’s there to try and see where it needs fleshing out, expanding. Where to put the meat on the bones. Sometimes I need a little help in this area and I have some wonderful CPs who point these things out.

That’s where the extra chapters come in, and that dreaded evil – research. I tell you, it can swallow whole days. And nights, if you let it. I am getting better, but I still find the most amazing trivia when I'm supposed to be focused on a particular subject. Like, which sword would be the best for my heroine to have been trained in? Rapier? Foil? Saber? What weighs more? What balance is needed for what? What cuts a certain way when swung X direction with Y force, etc. That’s where those pesky links hide. They suck you in with their pretty packaging. *VBG* It’s very easy to get sucked into reading for hours and DAYS about how swords are made, what metal is used, which civilization used which particular style, when. The list is never-ending.

So, I flesh out and add the chapters between. Then I look at the characters. What personal traits do they have? What tics? What makes them vulnerable? These are all things I look at once I have the bare bones down. There’s probably a million ways to do this a better way, but this is what works for my particular muse. Some like to know down to what their hero likes to eat for breakfast every second Tuesday before they even start their story, but I can't know that until it’s the second Tuesday that he eats it. And once, the hero turned into a love triangle, then got shafted for the secondary character. Very annoying, I must say.

 I still feel really guilty about that.

There is usually one character who evades me, one who leaves it until the last possible moment to let me know what their motivation really is. In my second MS, a suspense, it was the hero. I didn’t know why he was an assassin until the third last chapter – when he told the heroine. It was a huge ‘Aha!’ moment. Very emotional for me, because I would never have guessed what he had been through, what he’d seen.

One of my habits that annoys even me, is the ‘tweaking’. I have a nasty habit of going back once it’s finished to ‘have a look’. That usually means rewriting something, purely because I can't help myself. I have to constantly update all my files because I’ll change something somewhere and open a different one on a different USB or something, that doesn’t have my modification.

One thing you may want to know is how long it takes me to write a standard novel? Well, I have a couple of answers for this.

If I'm writing normally, about six months from start, to finished, polished item. That’s me dawdling. I could do it in three to four, if I had to. But, I can actually write most of a book in one week. Yes, ONE week. I’ve done it three times now. This year I wrote 37,000 words in five days. My daily record was over 7,300.

Problem is, it shatters me and wipes me out for six months afterwards.

So I do NOT recommend that!

What seems to happen is if I write one like that, I leave it for 6-12 months, then come back and fill in the missing bits. And something funny? Those are the MSs that have been the most successful for me, contest wise. Who knows why, maybe it’s the fact that I can't sit there and procrastinate over the placement of words, or try to write in a way that’s not really me.

I have an office, but I edit in there, not write. I get claustrophobic. I write at the dining room table, or in my recliner at night, when everyone’s in bed. My best time for being creative is around 11pm onwards, usually for about two to three hours.

And I find a picture of my hero, usually by chapter two, and print it out and bluetak it to my window. I have some yummy men on that window! They tend to stay there…

When I do a full edit, I print it out and use red pen. Red pen I so maligned. I loved it as a kid, because I knew what needed fixing if I had red pen on my tests. Knew where to improve, at a glance. I love it still.

So I say, bring on the RED PEN!!!

And I always print out a hard copy of the finished item. So even if there’s a EMP that destroys all technology as we know it and zombies roam the earth (and I know you know this is entirely possible!), I will have a copy of my MSs, even if they are not the most recent ones.

I also print out a Wordle spread. I play with the colors and placement. Love it! That’s on my walls, too. If I'm adding words to the hard copy, I use pencil. A pacer, not a pencil pencil. Have used one since I was ten years old. Love them, too. I have these awesome funky colored ones with clear rubbery-type grips, called Vibz. The hardest thing is keeping my son away from them.

That’s pretty much my novel process, from go to woe. I hope you get something out of reading this, even if it’s a resounding, “Holy heck! I will NEVER do it that way!”

Good luck with your own writing, and may the muse be with you. J

Thanks, Michelle!
Loved learning more about your process.


  1. You scare me with that manic word count, Chelle. *shudder* But I love the whole technicolor movie analogy - I see stories like that too. Just got to make sure what I see in my head translates into words on the page, LOL!!!

    We're going to have to work on getting you to semi-plot a bare bones structure, de Rooy, for the day your editor requires you hand in a proposal. :-)

    They're very understanding of us pantsters but they do like an idea of what they're going to get.

    In advance.

    Before you write the story. :-P

  2. Michelle great post! =)

    And I long for the days I could write that many words (but without the fatigue thanks very much!) I must get into the habit of printing out a hard copy too...

  3. Thanks Michelle, this was both entertaining and enlightening for me (as s'one trying to work out what process/style will be most productive).

  4. Kylie, I knew you'd be cringing, LOL. And yeah, I KNEW you'd be thinking about setting me a task! :D

  5. Thanks Mel! My normal countr is far more do-able, usually around the 1-2k on a good day, when said Muse is not on his way to Barbados! Hard copies are godd... :)

  6. Glad you got something out of it, Rhyll. Hope you can avoid the bad habits I seem to have picked up! Good luck with your writing.

  7. Helen - How on Earth did you know my weakness for Mr. Pine??? He's a fantastic inspiration for a Flight Captain... *vbg* It's funny how writing down your process makes you realise how (dis)organized you might be, LOL.

  8. I could say so much. Or, I could do the American thing of taking the 5th!

    Yeah, taking the 5th seems wise. You know too much (& are an awesome CP)....

    Besides, Kylie can get out the Big Stick of Bob :P

    Great post and yeah, you are learning your limits....or not LMAO :P

  9. I'm so late reading your post, Michelle, but I'm sure glad I read it because my process is equally as messy - so there's hope for me :)