Monday, January 14, 2013

How Author's Write- Terri Main

Today I welcome Muse Author Terri Main as she shares her writing process with us.

 What do you write?
I write many things. Fiction and Nonfiction. I do writing for private clients as well as for my own publication. With fiction I write mostly mysteries and hard science fiction. Hard science fiction is based on current scientific knowledge extrapolated to future settings. I don’t do space opera or science fantasy. My mysteries are usually set in the future as well.

 Do you use 1st person, 3rd person, multiple POVs?
I use whatever POV seems to work best. In my novel Dark Side of the Moon, I wrote about half the novel in third person before I realized it really worked better in first person. So, I changed everything around. I am working on a novel with multiple POV’s which is a bit more tricky.

How do you get started with a book- is it an idea, a character, vary from story to story?
Oh, it varies. The novel I’m working on now started as a piece of a dream I had about a WWE wrestling match on the Moon. That particular scene ended up being just a minor part of the story, but it was a starting point. Sometimes, it will be just a thought. For instance, there is a novel I’m working on that began by thinking “What if magic was used for things that technology is used for in our world. And what if the source of that magic was running out and they needed to discover technology.” That led to a Sword and Sorcery type of novel which has a type of science fiction basis about a planet settled by people from earth who rejected technology, but found on this planet a substance that could turn psychic energy into functional energy through manipulation of sound or singling. The story takes place 10,000 years after the settlement of the planet, and the substance called “essence” is running out. So, they are searching for new sources of essence as well as rediscovering the lost technology, but also battling an embedded distrust for complicated machinery.

Do you draft quickly? 
Oh, I write my first drafts at about 1500 words an hour. I write very fast and furious chasing that story. It’s like I’m watching the story unfold on a screen before me and I’m typing like a maniac trying to write is all down before it moves on to the next scene.

Do you do research before your first draft, during?
Most of my research takes place before I start writing. If there is a minor fact I need like the spelling of a place name or the height of a mountain, I just put in a blank and keep writing. Once I start writing, that’s all I do. I write. I don’t edit. I don’t look things up. I don’t ponder over wording. I just write. Now, I may do many hours of research before I write and many hours of research when I edit, but I don’t interrupt the writing with research.

Do you outline? How?
I follow what I call a discovery method of plotting for fiction. I identify several destination points where the story must go, but I don’t do detailed outlines. I basically throw my characters into situations and see how they make it to the next destination point. I spend a lot of time creating and understanding my characters. Once I start writing I let them make decisions. In many ways, my first draft is my outline.

Now, with nonfiction, it’s different. I do fairly detailed outlines, but many people wouldn’t recognize them as such. If I am writing a magazine article based on a lot of research and interviews, I take copious notes and put them on file cards, one fact or quote per card. I then make stacks of the cards according to topic. After that I ask myself which of these topics logically comes first, which follows that topic and so on. I then jot down notes for each section on cards and slip them in the right spots. I use that as an outline. For short articles, though, I might just jot down the main points on the back of an envelope. It really depends on the project. I’m working on a website now for a client and I’m using a website creation program and I’m just creating blank pages for each section of the website. Then I take and make a card for each page and jot down some notes for each page which I’ll use to create content. Each project suggests an organizational method. I try to find that method and use it. I don’t let myself get stuck using only one approach. Like Abraham Maslow said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you treat everything as if it is a nail.”

Do you name everything up front when you are drafting or do you leave comments for yourself to go back and fill in later so you don't lose the flow of what you are working on?
I am terrible remembering names. I create them often on the fly while I’m writing, especially minor characters. But I keep forgetting the names and I just leave blanks and come back later. I have used Scrivener to just keep a list of names open in a separate window on the computer, but I often forget about that.

Do you work with CP's or Beta's? How soon into your draft do you let them see your work?
Not really. If I do, it will be only one person and that will be a professional editor with expertise in that genre of writing. I’ve been in critique groups and have ended up more confused than helped. Sometimes they didn’t understand the genre like I do. Other times, they did, but all they gave me was what they liked and didn’t like personally. They rarely critique according to an external set of standards. So, all I ended up with were a bunch of opinions that represented an incredibly small cross-section of potential readers. With nonfiction, I never use them at all. Nonfiction is too fast paced. I have a deadline for a magazine article in a week and my critique partner is busy taking her kids to their soccer tournament this week. That doesn’t work. I’ve been at this writing game for close to 40 years. By this point I have enough experience and education to be able to look critically at my own work and make fairly effective evaluations of it’s value.

What books/websites have you found most helpful to helping you write your best?
The Writer’s Market is far and away the best book for writers. First, there are tons of articles by professional writers about all aspects of writing. Secondly, as you read the listings you begin to see trends in what editors want in different genres. You may have to read between the lines a bit, but it is a great education for the  aspiring writing. I also found the magazines Writer’s Digest and The Writerinvaluable to my success as a writer. There is also a book I read years ago, but I’m not sure if it is still in print called One Way to Write your Novel by Dick Perry. If you can find it in your used book store, it’s worth buying. Otherwise, I’d say every writer should read On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing.
Writing is a job, pure and simple. It is an enjoyable job, but it is a job. That means you can’t sit around waiting for inspiration or “the muse” or some other mythical bolt from the blue. You just have to work at it. Also, that talent is irrelevant. Most of what we call talent is just an innate ability to do what other people learn to do. Talent usually is only one percent innate most of it is ardent desire to do something coupled with the perseverance needed to carry the job through to completion.  

 What do you have out now, or coming out? Any upcoming events? A website we can find you and your books at? An author photo? A booktrailer? Anything else you want to share?
Well, right now, I am most excited about the launch of my new writing business. I am providing marketing support for artists, writers, performers and small businesses, web design, ghostwriting, promotional writing and other types of writing services. I will be doing everything from writing simple press releases to creating websites and digital portfolios. That will be fun. That site is at You can find blurbs from my books and links to buy them on that site. You can find my page on Facebook at . If you mention this blog post, I will give a 25% discount off any of my services.

Captain Horatio Albert Nelson, captain of the Earth Trade Alliance battleship had never found a planet he couldn't conquer. Of course, he called it signing a trade agreement, but nobody was kidding anybody but the folks back home who believed in the moral superiority of Earth. Then he entered orbit around a small, unremarkable planet, marked on the star charts as Hansen's Planet and known to its inhabitants as Jarlinden.The confounded people would not fight, nor would they surrender. They seemed unconcerned that his ship could reduce their planet to space debris. They have no weapons, yet seem confident in their security. Are they fools? Or do they know something the captain doesn't?
MuseItUp Publishing

When history professor and former FBI profiler, Carolyn Masters took a position at Armstrong University on the moon, she thought she had left the past behind her. However, she isn’t on the moon long before she is called in to join Michael Cheravik, a rough and occasionally obnoxious former Dallas homicide detective, to investigate the death of Juan McAlister, astromechanics professor and lunar independence activist.
As the investigation progresses, they find that they must not only solve the murder, but stop a terrorist plot against earth, and maybe exorcise the demons of their past.

Rev. Chris Parmenter enjoyed a comfortable life as pastor of a prosperous suburban church. Then one day, a parishioner reveals that she is a clone and asks a provocative question, “Do I have a soul?” His search for an answer leads him to a surprising conclusion as he balances faith, compassion and the business of running a church.
MuseItUp Publishing

You can find more of my work at, including my new release Death Gets an F.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your process with us, Terri!


  1. Hello, Terri! Great interview! Like you, I think my first drafts are a form of outlining, although I don't write them as fast as you!

  2. Hi Terri! Houw fascinating it is to read about how you work and write. It couldn't be more different from my way of doing things, then again, it takes me absolutely ages to move on and be happy with my work in progress. I write, then edit what I have written, then write a little more and go back over the whole thing and edit again! I can't move on until I am happy with what I wrote before. Anyway, I think I should be a little more like you!

  3. Very nice interview, Mary.



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