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Jedi Mind Tricks for Writers: a.k.a. The Writing Process blog hop

I love the smell of free writing in the morning! (photo by Tui Snider)
I love the smell of free writing in the morning! (photo by Tui Snider)

Who is Holli Moncrieff?

I met Holli Moncrieff last month via the 2014 April A to Z Challenge. Holli’s a dynamo as you can see from her bio:

As a freelance journalist and editor, I’ve published thousands of articles in magazines and newspapers. I’ve just finished my fifth novel…a young adult book that’s a cross between Single White Female and Mean Girls.

Five novels, and counting, on top of a gazillion published articles? I feel like such a slacker! And that’s just a fraction of the creative projects Holli is up to.

What’s the Writing Process Blog Hop?

Ms. Moncrieff recently invited me to participate in a meme that’s been buzzing around the writersphere for a while now. It’s called “My Writing Process Blog Hop” and the title sums it up rather tidily. I love learning how other authors approach their writing projects since it’s such a solitary activity.

To learn about Holli’s writing process and see the other two people she picked, check out her blog post My Writing Process: The Blog Hop You’ve Been Waiting For (Or Not)

To read about my writing process and see who I picked for next week’s My Writing Process Blog Hop, read on!

What writing projects am I currently working on?

Some might call me scatter-brained, but I prefer to think of myself as “multi-passionate” (as I once heard Marie Forleo call it) because I tend to have many different creative projects brewing. Right now, the three main ones are:

Paranormal Texas: A Travel Guide to Haunted Places near Dallas & Forth Worth

I had so much fun researching and writing Unexpected Texas that I’ve decided to pen another travel book. The tentative title is Paranormal Texas: A Travel Guide to Haunted Places near Dallas & Fort Worth.

North Texas has no shortage of allegedly haunted sites, and I am having a blast researching this topic. Last night, for instance, I checked out a haunted ghost town, and took photos of a mysterious glowing tombstone in a historic cemetery.

If all goes as planned, this haunted Texas travel guide will be released in September. Meanwhile, I’m learning so much haunted Texas history and lore!

A screenplay about the Lynching of Santa Claus

Of all the strange-but-true stories I researched for my offbeat travel guide Unexpected Texas one in particular lingers in my imagination: the tale of the massive manhunt and subsequent lynching of a very bad Santa in Texas. That one seemed like the summary of a Tarantino movie to me right from the start. Taking Chantelle Osman‘s class on screenwriting at the DFW Writer’s Conference earlier this month, inspired me to start writing a movie based on this extremely weird bit of Texas history!

A memoir about living off-the-grid on a tiny island

In my early 20’s, I spent 5 years on a tiny island off the coast of Washington State working as a caretaker for wealthy patrons. During that time, I eloped, was nearly blown up by dynamite, had a boat sink, was rejected by friends and family, recorded electronic music, was accused of being a Satan worshiper, and home-schooled my step-daughter (who hated me – at first!) It was a tumultuous time and I learned a lot! I’ve transcribed my several diaries from this time in my life and am turning it into an account that reads like a novel.

How does my work differ from others of the genre?

I buy every travel guide on Texas I can get my hands on. The one I published, Unexpected Texas, differs because it includes many places that I did not read about in any other guides. It also includes much better directions to many hard-to-find places, which saves people time and trouble. In addition, several readers have told me the quirky tidbits and history are fun to read even if you never plan to visit Texas.

My haunted travel book differs from others because it includes places that I have not found listed in other books about haunted places in north Texas. It, too, includes much better directions than other books. I only had vague directions to the ghost town I visited yesterday, for instance, but my book will spell it out for people turn-by-turn. It’s different, too, because it is very much a travelogue and not simply a list of stories about haunted places. I want visitors to the area to be able to hone in on a town and see what is near them.

As for my memoir, it is based on actual diaries that I kept. So I have not had to rely strictly on my memory. Luckily, I wrote a LOT in my diaries. I would even re-write certain incidents back then as writing practice. Having so much material to choose from has really allowed me to cull all the boring bits, and to zero in on specific themes. In some ways, it feels like I am editing someone else’s manuscript rather than writing my own. Hopefully, the finished product will read like a fast-paced novel.

Why do I write what I do?

I got into travel writing because of a blog I wrote back in 2007. I lived in Italy at the time, and after writing a post to explain how jaywalking was a necessary skill to survive in Naples, an editor hired to me write for his magazine.

My first paying gig!

When I moved to Texas, I started writing travel pieces about the Lone Star State, and have kept it up ever since.

How does your writing process work?

For non-fiction, I start off with research. It’s fun to read with a specific goal in mind, dig through all the books on my shelves, and hit up obscure online forums to find what I need. The danger of research is that it’s a bit like gambling. You keep thinking you’ll strike it rich if you keep going just a wee bit longer. That’s why I have to limit my info-binges, as fun as they are. Otherwise, I’ll just research, research, research, and never get around to writing.

When it’s time to put words down for a specific project, I set a kitchen timer for 15 minutes and let myself free write on the subject. Knowing that I “only” have 15 minutes to write keeps me from staring at the page or staring out the window. Of course, I’ll keep setting that timer for 15 minutes over and over – as many times as it takes to get the piece done.

Silly as it sounds, this little Jedi mind trick keeps me on task!

If I am writing and there is some fact that I need to check, I write XXX and just keep on writing. Later on, I’ll let myself dive back into research mode and fill in all those X’s.

When the timer goes off, I set it for 5 minutes and use that time to do some menial chore around the house. During that time, my mind keeps writing and I often come back with ways to get through clunky areas in my project. This also keeps me from sitting for more than 15 minutes at a time. (You can read more about my On/Off Writing Method in a post entitled How to Avoid Death by Writing)

As for editing, I rather enjoy it! However, if there is a phrase I like, but it doesn’t serve the piece, I cut and paste it into a section of the draft labeled “compost.” I rarely go back to that compost pile, but simply knowing my pretty phrase is still accessible keeps me from fixating on it and wasting time trying to make it work in the project at hand. This is how I take Stephen King’s advice to “kill your darlings” without deleting anything.

But shhh! Don’t tell that to my writing self. This is another little trick I play on myself that works well for me.

Do you ever play tricks to keep the words flowing?

Well, I could go on and on… Instead I will end by sharing links to next week’s Writing Process Blog Hop peeps, so you can hop over to their sites for a sneak peek:

Morgan Dragonwillow

Morgan Dragonwillow – Shadow Poet, Intuitive Creatrix, foodie & recovering perfectionist. She is intimate with shadow and dances into the heart of it. She believes that diving in to what most people try to avoid makes great fertilizer for creativity of all types but especially writing.

Julie Jordan Scot

Julie Jordan Scott is a writer, creative life coach, speaker, performance poet, Mommy and mixed-media artist whose Writing Camps and Writing Playgrounds permanently transform people’s creative lives.

Jane Sadek

Poet and storyteller. Wife and friend. Traveler and caretaker. Woman of faith.

Tui Snider
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Published inTravel Photo Essays


    • Tui Snider Tui Snider

      Yea! I’ve already checked out your post – love, love, love it! :D Thanks again for playing along with the hop.

  1. […] Tui Snider recently published her book, Unexpected Texas, that quickly flew to the Amazon Best Seller list. Check out her quirky and entertaining blog and her answers to her writing process on Jedi Mind Tricks for Writers: a.k.a. The Writing Process Blog Hop. […]

  2. Thanks for participating, Tui! I LOVE this. All of your projects sound so interesting, and the paranormal one is right up my alley…as is your memoir. I can hardly wait to read it.

    I love your tricks, too. The standing up every 20 minutes is a great plan, and I bet your house gets clean!

    So glad I asked you to do this. Thanks for the kind words.

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