Thank you for stopping by for this week’s Writing Process Blog Tour!
This is a travelling blog tour that pops up every Monday for writers to share a little about what, how and why they write. If you’re a writer, I hope it cheers you on on your journey — and if you’re not, hopefully it will give you some little insight into the lives of the people who create the stories you love.
Thanks so much to the wonderful Anna Tan for inviting me to participate. Anna and I met in the wilds of Twitter when it was still shiny and new. She’s incredibly supportive of the writing community and with each passing year, I admire this woman more. She dabbles in a broad spectrum of writing, including poems, scripts, novels, and flash fiction. I am always in awe of anyone who tackles flash fiction and short stories — mainly because I’ve never written a short story that didn’t want to stretch into a novel. I encourage you to drop by her blog and check out her writing process.
Now on to the questions.
What am I working on?
Right at the moment I’m working on editing some projects for mates at Gandolfo Helin Literary. It has been a great learning experience and has helped me to get to know some of my agency mates better in a short period of time. I can’t really talk about what the projects are, only that once they’re out, you’re going to love them.
In addition to the edits, I’m prepping to work on my next novel, which will be a stand-alone, upper YA, that goes darker places than my current works. The idea came to me in 2010 as I was driving to work. The sun was shining on the palm trees as I drove down the backside of Disneyland, and I was enjoying the cool of the morning, when BAM! I had this idea in my head so strongly I nearly pulled over to catch my breath. So I’ve been living with this idea for four years, mulling over aspects of it while working on other things, getting flashes of scenes here and there, and I’m beyond excited to know I will finally have a chance to test my mettle as a writer and get this one down on the page. My goal is to start drafting sometime in June.
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I primarily write for the younger side of YA and the older side of Middle Grade, (the new book I just mentioned being an exception to this), while the bulk of YA is targeted at slightly older readers, so that is one difference. I also have a distinctive writing style, which makes it easy for readers to “see” what’s going on in the story, and helps them connect on an emotional level to the characters.
I’ll hear writers talk about their works in progress and whether they are plotters (making sure they have an outline to work from, character sketches, etc.) or pansters (start writing and see where the story takes them) they will mention something about making their character(s) do something. I can’t make my characters do anything. If we argue about it, I lose. Every. Time. You see, the characters come to me and tell me their story, and while sometimes I have to pull it out of them, I don’t “make” them do anything. My role is that of scribe. I listen to what they say, and my job is to transcribe everything and get it all cleaned up to show their story in the truest form I possibly can.
Why do I write what I do?
This question made me smile because I can recall having a conversation on Twitter where a friend pushed me to say why I write. We had been discussing reasons why certain books grabbed readers attention and I mentioned that I just wrote the stories that came to me. As the author, I’m way too close to the story and have a difficult time seeing the outward reaching value of my work. The work is so intensely personal to me, and when anything is personal, I dive inward. But when pushed on it, I went off on a rant at 140 characters at a time to say exactly why I write what I do. The stories come to me for a reason. Of that I am certain. They are meant to reach kids (and adults) and have them connect with my characters. The circumstances may not be the same, but the readers can connect to the emotions and feelings of my characters and realize they are not alone in this crazy, mixed-up world. I write for the age group I do, because they are trying to figure out who they are, who they want to be, and are faced with having to leave childhood behind and begin stepping into adulthood. It’s a time when most kids have confusion, feel unloved, like they are so incredibly different and not normal, and they so desperately want to fit in, to be one of the group. Even those who are at the center of the “group” have doubts, insecurities, and overwhelming emotions. My books are written to say – “Hey, you’re not alone.” And sometimes, that’s all they need to know. That someone else has experienced the same feelings they have … and made it through. I write because my characters need a voice. I write because I have to.
How does my writing process work?
Different. Every. Time. With each and every book my writing process has been different. Up until writing the fourth book in a series, I could say that if nothing else, I started at the beginning wrote to the end, then stopped. However, writing the fourth book, I started with scenes that are at the end of the book, as well as one scene that has been pushed into book five, and I wrote significant chunks out of order. I used to say I always write with a loose outline — which I normally do, but then hit a Middle Grade where I didn’t use one — couldn’t use one.
The characters come to me, tell me their story. I generally jot down some notes, figure out how the timeline runs, and then start writing. Even when I outline prior to starting, the outline is then tucked away, and I let the story take its course with the characters leading me the entire way. My job is to crawl inside the heads of my characters and share their experience on the page. In essence, my writing process is sitting my butt in a chair and keeping it there until I’m done. Then I put the manuscript away for a few weeks while working on other things (I always have other projects to work on.) Then I take it out, read it through and see what kind of book I have. I tend to be a bare bones drafter, getting down only the essentials, and then afterward go back and add some of the descriptive passages, giving setting, making the story more full-flavored. Then the fun begins.
Once I’m through massaging some of the passages and building up sections that need it, I run my manuscript through an editing software and create a spreadsheet to edit by. I call it the evil spreadsheet because it points out everything — evil. But because it helps me to see things I otherwise would not, I love it as well. I also highlight all known repetitive words because the highlights help me see where I need to restructure sentences. Once I get through the “technical” edits, I read the story aloud for pace and flow. (If you don’t do this, it is probably my number one suggestion to help you catch things that need fixing.) After that round, I start from the back and read it backwards paragraph by paragraph. It helps you focus on the sentence level out of context, so your familiarity with the story hinders you less. And finally, I put it on my Kindle and have the robotic voice read it to me. I’m always amazed at what I catch this way. Then the manuscript is ready to be sent to a trusted critique partner for her to slash it up for me, and then beta readers for feedback. Then after dealing with the feedback, I feel like I have accomplished the goal of writing a book.
Thanks so much for stopping by, it’s been fun. Don’t forget to stop by these two good friends of mine next week, to hear about their writing process.
Eisley Jacobs and I met on Twitter, and then I had the lovely privilege of meeting her in person at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW) Colorado Gold Conference in Denver, and have managed to see her smiling face a few times since then – whenever we can get together. The first thing I think about when thinking about Eisley is her tremendous spirit. She has a passion and enthusiasm for projects which amazes me. She conceives of the idea and then she’s doing it. I remember her tweeting about her heart being drawn to Ethiopia, and a couple months later she was on a plane with a mission group to help the Ethiopian people. She has a tremendous heart, and in her writing you find the same passion, enthusiasm, and heart.
Monica Enderle Pierce and I met on Twitter via the #wipfire hashtag, which has sadly faded away. We used it to post lines from our current projects and critique each others work — the writing community coming together to help one another. It was truly a wonderful thing. I became captivated by Monica’s writing ability through the snippets posted during our wipfire sessions, and we since then have become very good friends. A few years ago, I took a driving vacation and hunted Monica down to spend a wonderful weekend chatting, wandering around taking in nature, and writing, of course. And have been back to see her when I was in town for the Story Chairs opening. Blessed with a sharp wit, and an incredible writing talent, Monica weaves a story to keep readers turning the pages.