Hello, my lovely friends. I hope things are lovely for you today.
Now that we’ve thoroughly covered my writing conference adventure, we’ll try and jump back into regularly scheduled programming. Today you might notice I have a part two in the title – that’s because I have done this hop once, but I was asked to do it again by one of my favorite people in the world, and since my process changes from book to book, I figured it would be okay.
So, here’s the who and why, before we touch on the what:
Who: I was nominated by my amazing friend Marissa Fuller. She’s one of the happiest, funniest, most Harry Potter minded people I know, and every time I talk with her it brightens my life. She’s an editor over at Anaiah Press, as well as a writer, and has a passion for books that (is it possible?) might exceed my own. You should definitely follow her on Twitter.
Why: Here’s the quote to explain it all: “We writers share these things, but informally during workshops and at conferences (and, for a handful of established writers, in printed interviews), but not so much through our open-forum blogs. With the hashtag #MyWritingProcess, you can learn how writers all over the world answer the same four questions. How long it takes one to write a novel, why romance is a fitting genre for another, how one’s playlist grows as the draft grows, why one’s poems are often sparked by distress over news headlines or oddball facts learned on Facebook… “
And now for the what: Below are four questions I’ll answer, possibly succinctly but probably not.
1) What am I working on?
Well, as I found last night, to my great confusion and bewilderment, it seems I have four projects that are current in one way or another. My first is an MG sci-fi I am cowriting with someone super spectacular – I won’t tell you who, but I have faith in your combined wisdom to figure it out. The second is revisions on a MG fantasy about a set of siblings who stay at a summer cottage and encounter pirates, fairies, mermaids, and a mysterious nanny. I’m done with the revisions, pretty much, but need to enter them into the document so I can send it off to some lovely people who’ve agreed to beta for me. My third project is revisions to my YA Phantom of the Opera retelling set in a Charleston Youth Orchestra – if I can get it done in time, I might work up my courage to try PitchWars. And my fourth is a MG dark comedy about a boy who pulls a body from the river and sets off a chain of events that leave him suspecting his own dad is involved with something sinister.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Since I write so many different things, the answer to this question varies by project. When it comes to middle grade, I love to put a strong emphasis on families and relationships between parents and kids, siblings, and then friendships. Family dynamics are so rich and worth exploring. My other favorite thing in middle grade is mixing magical and real life things, trying to express that tapestry that colors a healthy childhood with imagination and adventure regardless of circumstances. Also, in terms of the YA retelling, I like to dive deep into the why of people’s actions, and even with tense scenes and escalating danger, I try to take the right amount of time to understand motivation and also to appreciate the beautiful things that might otherwise go unnoticed.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I write the stories of the people I meet. Not their real stories, or it wouldn’t be fiction, but stories about things that might have been, or that we wish would have been, or that we wonder about. I work with kids for a living, and often it’s something they say or do that sparks an idea for me. I want to take their realities and the difficulties they face and find ways to explore those stories but with an element of magic and possibilities. For my YA novels it’s much the same – the desire to face the difficulties of our world, like homelessness, mental illness, and abuse, with a lighter touch that focuses on triumphs over difficulties and the celebration of beautiful things made all the more beautiful by the suffering. I like to write about people who overcome.
4) How does my writing process work?
Well, if I were going to be completely honest, I’d have to say it goes a little something like this:
1) write a sentence
2) drink coffee
3) do something pointless like feed my kim kardashian movie star game addiction
4) drink some more coffee
5) wonder why writing is so hard
6) write another sentence
7) have a snack and take a nap
But it tends to vary from book to book 😉 When I first started out, I just wrote to write. I finished my first novel when I was sixteen, and I’d started it when I was fifteen. I wrote around school work and activities and whatnot, and it was globs of words on a page with zero elegance or rhythm but lots of passion and excitement. The second and third novels went much the same way. Even when I got more interested and dedicated, I was one hundred percent pantser and rarely spent time hunting for bigger answers or doing any sort of clean up following a first draft. Now, knowing that hardcore revision after something is much harder for me than the first draft is, I actually do some preplanning – I make a list of the characters I already know about and what characteristics they have, both physical and personality, I write something down about the premise and as much as I know of the story (typically an inciting incident and one or two twists) and I try to write something about what the goal is or why the story exists. Then I usually write the first 30k by the seat of my pants, just getting into the story, exploring the characters, and trying to set some things up based on my vague inclinations. Once the first glut of words is over, I make a rough outline in 5k increments and try to include at least three events or encounters that need to happen in each of those 5k segments up to my rough estimate of total wordcount/ the end. When I write, then, I leave the outline alone if things are going well, and if I’m stuck I choose a specific scene listed to work on.
This method evolved because I’ve been writing seriously for three years now, and for the first year I was working full time and in a lead role in a theatre production, for the second year I was working full time and going to graduate school part time, and the third year I was working part time, going to grad school part time, and holding down an internship. I had to find a way to track my ideas and the themes of a story without losing the excitement by knowing too much about it, and this is what has worked for me so far.
And now for the fun part – I get to choose people to tag and have them do this same post next week!
Two lovely friends who have agreed to go next and tell you about their writing process are:
I’m super excited these two have agreed to post about their writing process next week, and I hope you stop by their blogs next Monday!