My Writing Process: blog tour

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“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.” Zora Neale Thurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

I’m not sure how, but all of a sudden it’s the beginning of June. It seemed like forever to get here, but now the sun is shining, boats are in the water, the lilacs are in full bloom, and our garden is a weed patch waiting for tending.

Meanwhile, there’s writing to tend to as well, and I’d like to thank my friend Jamie Miles for inviting me to participate in the “My Writing Process” blog tour. With a million things going on, I’m not sure I’d have gotten around to blogging this week at all. So thank you Jamie! If you haven’t visited Jamie’s wonderful blog, you should go take a look—she’s one of my favorites: lots of humor and life observations and full of heart. Well worth the read!

What are you working on?

I’m finishing up the ninth draft of my latest novel—I call it near-historical fiction coming of age. The seed of the idea came from a real life experience you can read about in another blog post. A teenage girl falls in love with a young man who is about to leave to serve in the Vietnam War, and after he deploys, she learns about and forms ideas about the war based on interactions with four other young men in her life. I wrote the first draft of this novel during NaNoWriMo last year.

I am also working on my next novel idea. It’s about an adrenaline junkie—so I’m challenging my fears by doing some of the things that I’ll write about in the book.

How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

This is a tough question because most of what I write is cross-genre. I’ve written mystery that has elements of women’s fiction (I self published Desired to Deathas J.M. Maison). I’ve written historical fiction that is combined with magical realism (I’m querying this novel); and my current novel is near-historical fiction (1960s), but it is also coming of age with elements of literary fiction.

Why do you write what you do?

I’m almost always drawn to stories of loss and change and themes of home, probably at least partly because I moved around a lot as a kid. I’m also the product of a broken family: my father walked out when I was only two years old. I often write about family and parental problems that I believe have a profound effect on children for their whole life long. Hence (regardless of their age) many of my characters are trying to figure out how to cope with the hands dealt them in childhood. I also tend to address topics that produce fear for me in my life (for instance writing about an adrenaline junkie or being forced to say good-bye to a friend or lover forever). These explorations help me make sense of my own life, fears, and limitations, while at the same time helping to distract me and make me feel less alone with my problems and fears. My stories also always include at least one love story—I love to write about love and relationships—often the foundation of life’s greatest joys and biggest heartaches.

How does your writing process work?

This is an interesting question because my process seems to be constantly evolving. It used to be that I’d always write a (pretty detailed) outline prior to starting to write. Then with my last WIP, I started writing and wrote about two or three chapters before I even started to outline—then I outlined the entire book. With my current WIP, I didn’t outline at all before I started to write and after I was finished with the first draft, I pulled the entire book apart, outlined it, and restructured it.

The one thing that hasn’t changed in all my outlining and writing process changes is that when I’m writing a first draft, I write every day. I like to write first thing in the morning, but I can write anytime. I think the reason NaNoWriMo worked so well for me is that I usually write fast and hard. During first draft, I’ll write between 1000 and 7000 words a day. I almost always go into “the writer’s zone,” and I barely notice what’s going on around me. When I’m in the zone I can write anywhere. In the past two years, I’ve come to realize that I can force myself into the zone with music related (in my mind only) to the story I’m writing. Ever since then, I’ve created a playlist for every WIP, and for the hour or so leading up to writing I’ll listen to the music, and I also listen to the music (but don’t really hear) while I write.  As I write, I become completely and totally immersed in the world I create.

Next week…

I’ve invited my blogging friend Jackie Cangro to participate in “My Writing Process.” Jackie and I met several years ago via Twitter and/or mutual blogging friends (I can’t remember exactly how)—you know how these things go. I absolutely love Jackie’s posts. She always delivers something entertaining but thought provoking, too, and I love her writing style. I also enjoy hearing stories and updates about her amazing dog Reggie.

What’s up with you this early summer? Writing? Vacationing? I’d love to hear!





  1. Julia — I admire that you can write ANYtime and when you’re in the zone, ANYwhere.

  2. I loved this sneak peak into your writing process, Julia. How great that you use music as a way to draw you into the inner world of your story. I can’t listen to music when I write. I usually find it distracting, but every now and then I’ll listen to a random selection of songs when I edit.

    My WIP also explores themes of home. I was thinking that people’s definitions of home and a sense of belonging can be something that constantly evolves.

    Thank you for inviting me to participate in this blog fest next week. You’ll be a hard act to follow!

    • Thanks for reading, Jackie! Interesting to read that you can’t listen to music while writing but can while editing. I cannot listen while I edit! I also love what you say about the constantly evolving sense of belonging — so true! Can’t wait to read yours next week; thanks for your kind words.

  3. Erika Marks says:

    Happy summer, dear friend!I loved this–and I love knowing that next time we get to visit with you and Jackie! (And please, a special guest appearance by the wonderful Sir Reg????)

    Summer hugs!!

    • Summer hugs back — Maine is at its finest right now, as you know, and I’ve been spending as much time outside as possible. I agree, can’t wait to see Jackie’s post 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  4. Shary says:

    I used to listen to music all the time, but I don’t anymore and I have no idea when I drifted away from the habit. Maybe a creativity boosting playlist would help me get my writing groove back.

    Can’t wait to read about your adrenaline junkie! And more Maggie True, please. I so admire how quickly and diligently you write, but you’re going to have to hurry up on that next mystery. 🙂

    • Oh man, that Maggie True is an elusive one 🙂 She is giving me a headache trying to pin her down to a new mystery!! I’ll tell her to tell me to hurry up or is it me telling her… whichever, thank you for your very kind words, Shary 🙂

      Yes! You should definitely try the creativity boosting playlist! I’m telling you, it did wonders for me! I’ll be curious what you end up with and how it works for you.

  5. It’s so fun to read these! I love hearing about what you’re working on and what not. And I can’t wait to hear about all the crazy research you do for the adrenaline junkie book. 🙂

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Annie! I’ll definitely keep you posted on the crazy things I ATTEMPT to do, haha. Hope I come through safe and sound :-/ Hmmm… fear rears its ugly head!

  6. Cynthia Robertson says:

    Interesting progression of your process, Julia. Funny how we develop as writers.
    I never knew that about your father leaving you so young. I’m sorry to hear you had that experience, though I’m certain it made you who you are, and you wouldn’t be the same if anything were different. And that would be a great loss.
    I agree with you about including a loving relationship in all y(our) works.

    • Thanks for reading, Cynthia, and so glad you found it interesting. Yes, my dad leaving was a biggy. Lots of consequences in all kinds of ways, unfortunately. Thank you for your very kind words — it makes me feel better to think that you may be right, that I wouldn’t be the same person. You are very very kind (to say it would be a great loss) and really made my day, thank you very much.

  7. I so admire your discipline Julia. And I’m determined to try NaNoWriMo this year. You are my inspiration! xoxo

    • You’re much too kind, Jamie… I think crazed would describe me more than disciplined 😉 But I’m very very glad to have the company on this writing path — so happy I can inspire — you can do it. NaNoWriMo was honestly one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. It’s a wonderful roller coaster of inspiration and competition that seems to fuel me at times. I say take what you can get, right? Hugs my friend and thanks for your inspiration to write this post!

  8. It’s lovely to hear about your writing process and what you’re working on, Julia. I agree that the writing process changes over time. I think this is connected to the type of story we’re writing, don’t you? Some lend themselves to planning, others to a more open and fluid approach and some to a kind of patchwork of bits and pieces. I LOVE that!

    • So glad you enjoyed reading, Abi! Yes, often how I write does seem connected to what I’m writing, especially if it’s from some deep place inside. I love it too. So happy to see you, friend!

  9. Nina says:

    I think your self awareness about what influences the themes and story lines your drawn too is an incredible thing. Not everybody can articulate that so clearly.

    • Thanks for reading and for your kind words, Nina. Sometimes the themes are pretty clear, other times it seems impossible to understand where certain ideas come from (as with the adrenaline junkie). Writing is such a fun journey of twists and turns, I know you’d agree.

  10. Kristen says:

    I’m not sure how I missed this post last week, but I’m glad to have read it today. I love learning about other writers’ processes, so thank you for sharing. That part of themes about loss/change and homes, and your being from a broken home, really jumped out at me. I’m finding this is where my comfort zone is in writing also, at least lately. My dad and mom split when I was 18 and the effect was profound, and still is some 20+ years later. It was only recently that I realized how much of it informs some of my writing, parenting, and perspective about relationships (romantic and platonic). It had been dormant for many years, but becoming a mom changed that. I’ll have to make it a point to read something of yours this summer–any suggestions?

    • Thanks for reading, Kristen! So sorry to hear about your parents — it seems to have a profound effect regardless of the age, so I understand. And I totally agree that becoming a mom adds yet another layer of how I feel it. As for reading something I’ve written — you’re so kind. So far I only have one thing “out there”: a self published mystery (Desired to Death) written as J.M. Maison. My other (literary) novels are currently out on query. Thanks so much for your interest!!


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