Blog Hop: Confessions on writing process

Sure, some people (ahem, who shall remain nameless) refer to the Blog Hop as 2014’s answer to the chain letter. However, when Tammy Burns nominated me to fess up about my writing process (right now it involves spending time in coffee shops, sinking cappuccino I really can’t afford), and had some very nice things to say about me – how could I not oblige?

While Tammy didn’t promise me completing the Blog Hop and sending copies out to ten of my best friends will “bring me good fortune” nor threaten some disaster if I “break the chain”, it’s entirely possible I’ll learn something about myself in the process.

WHAT AM I WORKING ON/WRITING?

Sadly, most of my cleverly crafted communications is dedicated to cover letters these days—which then fall into the dark pit that is the careers@….email address.

To take a break from the constant rejection and heartbreak of the job market, I’ll turn my attention to pitching a story idea. If the stars align, an editor will like my idea and assign me the story. Depending on whether the Moon is in Taurus (or should that be my Sun in the 8th House of Cancer?) I’ll also get paid.

Right now, I’m excited to see the finished product from my sojourn to surprise my sister in Sin City morph into 24 Hours in Vegas for Travel + Escape magazine.

And I finally started this blog, The High Wire. I’d long had the idea of creating a blog focused on working mothers and the challenge and issues of balancing career with parenthood. But I already suspect it’ll turn into a hodge-podge of posts.

HOW DOES MY WRITING DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?

That’s a tough question to answer when I don’t write in one specific genre. Much of my writing has been travel, as well as parenting, arts and culture, or what I like to call “life.”

Last year, I tried writing an opinion piece for Toronto Standard on the coup against former Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. After hours spent fretting over my modest laptop, writing, rewriting, research, setting the story down then picking it up again, I finally had to tell the editor I was killing the story. I couldn’t do it. I felt hopelessly out of my depth; I knew I had something to say, but I wasn’t able to write my way into the heart of what that something was.

However, it was a valuable lesson in attempting to write about a subject matter you’re not up-close and personal with. And it was my editor at the time, Sabrina Maddeaux who inspired me to attempt the story when she told Media, Darling : “Live outside whatever your beat is… It provides perspective and makes for a more interesting writer and person.”

Oh, wait. I just realized, I haven’t answered this question at all. If this were an exam, I’d get 0/10. How does my writing differ? I honestly don’t know it necessarily does. I believe all writers develop a particular “voice.” I guess the me-ness of me permeates everything I write.

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

I write what I do because I think it’s a good story and I want to be the one who tells it. The world is endlessly fascinating, especially when we compare it to our tiny corner. I love travel writing as I get to share a place I want everyone to experience for themselves – even if it’s vicariously through the page. The common denominator–whether it’s travel, parenting, or that trashy chick lit book I’m determined to write one day–is the desire to tell a story.

If I’m lucky enough to be assigned a story—hey, it’s been known to happen—I’m given a specific subject matter to write about and some direction on word count, including interviews with experts, story structure, etc. Generally, I find this the easiest type of writing, as you have some parameters to follow. And an editor who ensures your words read even better before the rest of the world sees it.

When it comes to much of my freelance writing, I usually find the stories myself then pitching those ideas to an editor.

So, I guess step one: find a compelling/relevant/timely/interesting/little told story. Working for a number of years as a publicist has honed this—in my opinion, vital—skill for freelance writers: identify a story idea. Essentially that’s much of what publicists do. Pick out the story ideas in the person/exhibit/product you are promoting, then match that story idea to an outlet. I probably don’t really stop to appreciate how much of a skill this is.

Once I’ve hooked an editor’s attention, whether it’s the Toronto Star agreeing to a feature on INCITE and my experience as a single parent, or getting the go-ahead from Travel & Escape to take the RoFo Bus Tour, the hard work begins.

HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

The process of starting with a blank page to handing in a 500 or 1,000 word article is usually a back-and-forth dance of research, interview, experience (seeing a play, travelling to a destination) and committing a few acceptably written sentences to the page.

The more I write, the less I fear hitting “no man’s land” where my story is a soggy mess and I can’t fathom just how I’m going to turn it around—and cut it down—into an engaging read by the next day. I’d be surprised to learn I’m unusual in procrastinating. Give me 14 days to hand in a story, and I’ll probably spend 10 of those telling myself, “I can’t do this.”

Coffee shops are a writer’s home away from home. As long as they’ve got Wi-Fi, decent coffee (I can’t stress enough how important the quality of their cappuccino needs to be), I’ll settle into the corner and knuckle down.

WHO’S NEXT?

I’m nominating three people who write about very different subjects, but the commonality is I admire their writing style and am intrigued to know more about their writing process. Sorry guys, I’ve not given any of you prior warning. And hey, feel free to “break the chain.” I’m not going to vex you with threats of calamity one week later if you DO NOT PASS THIS ON!

Justin Robertson

This isn’t just one Aussie looking out for another. Justin moved here from Melbourne and found a place in the Canadian media landscape. He not only remembers his roots, but finds a way to relate it to Canadian audiences – like Justin’s piece for Walrus Magazine on The Assassination of the Canadian Kid. His writing is muscular, wiry and above all: he knows how to tell a damn good story.

Rebecca Cuneo Keenan

I stumbled across Rebecca’s blog, Playground Confidential, through Twitter. There are very few bloggers, apart from Lainey Gossip, where I will read everything—or just about everything—they write. Playground Confidential is smart, funny—come on, Ghetto-rearing!—and everything I aspire to be as a parenting writer. Maybe why I love her writing so much is she’s willing to admit parenting is messy. I’m still at a loss to know why Rebecca isn’t currently employed to write for a major publication.

Steph Davidson

Steph Davidson is partner at Inked Communications and dishes on her dating life at Steph Not Stephanie. Her writing is funny as all hell and Steph’s background as a real journalist, writing for the National Post, shows. Apart from the gratitude I feel not subjecting myself to multiple dating train wrecks, where else can I learn about the ins and outs of Tinder? This lady serves up words like Gwyneth serves gluten-free, dairy free kale salad at a casual get-together. In the Hamptons.

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