The Writing Process Blog Tour is snowballing through my writer friends, picking up two new authors with every post! It's going to eat all the authors! But that's okay because we'll all learn fascinating things about each other's processes in the, you know, process.
Michelle Knudsen, amazing author of Library Lion and the Dragons of Trelian books among other great works, tagged me, and you can read her responses here.
And here are mine:
What am I currently working on?
I've only recently gone over first pass pages for my YA debut, Don't Touch. The fact that people are currently reading ARCs of this book is a daily distraction. A nice one, but, you know . . . This week, I've been revising a dark and spooky story called "The Game of Boys and Monsters" that will come out as a digital short from HarperTeen Impulse in October. And I'm working on a newer and more secret project that is also dark and spooky. It may or may not want to be a multi-book project. Said project and I are wrestling that out right now. I've got bruises.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well, for one thing, I don't feel married to a particular genre. I don't think that's so unusual, but I hope to be able to work in a variety of genres over time. I'm also really interested in blending genres--I get irritated at the suggestion that there are boundaries between genres like romance and sci-fi and horror and "literary fiction." I love books like Liar by Justine Larbalestier or Imaginary Girls and 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma that don't fit neatly into categories. I'm super interested in reading a horror story that is "literary," whatever that means. Did somebody say Kelly Link? Yes, please! And I love reading stories that seem rooted in realism but then veer into magical realism or fantasy. I won't judge my own success at genre-blending with "The Game of Boys and Monsters," but it's something I thought about while writing it.
Don't Touch is contemporary realism, but I've been influenced by works in which reality is more fluid or in which the point of view character's perception of reality is fluid. There's probably less fluidity in the final draft of this book than there was in earlier drafts, but I think some of that slippage is preserved in Caddie's point of view on her surroundings.
On a totally different note, I'm excited about Don't Touch being set in the Deep South. It's where I grew up, and it's a setting that doesn't show up in YA as frequently as say, New York or LA or the suburban Midwest.
Why do I write what I write?
Um, because I want to, I think? Is that a terrible answer? I write things that excite and engage me. If I'm not having fun writing something--which doesn't mean the work is easy; challenging can be fun--there's probably something wrong.
I'm drawn to write about things that bother me or haunt me or confuse me. For example, with "The Game of Boys and Monsters," I wanted to sort out some of my mixed feelings about stories in which sexy boyfriends turn out to be monsters.
I'm drawn to writing about things I find absurd and want to poke fun at. Sometimes, I've fallen in love with a book or show that gives me a particular feeling, and I want to find my own story that gives me a similar feeling.
With Don't Touch, I felt drawn to make a story around fear. A narrative has the power to organize and distill experience. A story sifts experience and makes meaning from the messiness of real life. In a way, I was writing a book that I wish I'd had to read in high school. The arc of a story resolves faster than anything does in real life, and that's comforting when you're in the middle of the mess of life. Reading gives us the opportunity to journey through an entire story arc in a relatively short period of time, and then reflect on how that arc might or might not have relevance to our own real lives.
How does my individual writing process work?
I seem to "write long," meaning that I tend to spill out every thought I might possibly have about a given character or theme. I write out of narrative sequence. Sometimes, I have an idea of the story arc, sometimes not, but I usually need something that feels fixed to work from--this might be a rough outline, it might be a final scene, or it might be a single strong image. Then I'm confronted with a hugely messy collection of scenes. In every novel-length project I've undertaken so far, I've found that I have way more material than one story can contain--that in fact, I have conjoined twin or triplet stories. I have to figure out where the strongest pull is coming from and cut away all the excess and more or less start over with a newly refined sense of direction.
Still, in starting over, I don't delete everything. I enjoy pulling sentences and paragraphs from old drafts into new ones, working patchwork style and massaging a scene until it feels like one organic piece.
I'm not saying this is my ideal process. I've been trying lately to write synopses and to give myself more direction from the beginning. While this is a good tool to keep me going and feeling like there's light at the end of the tunnel, I also accept that good things come out of wallowing around in the dark.
In the midst of all stages, I write lots of notes to myself, collect images, sketch pictures, play with free-writing, interview my characters, and when I can justify it to myself, I love spending tons of hours on research.
I really enjoy writing blind and free, and I enjoy revising on the scene and sentence level. The part that makes my brain crazy, and that I spend a ton of time on, is wrangling with plot on the big-picture level.
So that's me. I'm tagging two more authors who'll be sharing their answers with you next week, so be sure to visit their blogs!
I have the pleasure of knowing Linden McNeilly from the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Linden's a brilliant writer and teacher, and with her sister, she penned a really cool nonfiction book exploring the art of map-making, Map Art Lab.
Sue LaNeve was in my class at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Now she lives on a boat -- WHAT? She's the author of the funny and touching Spanky: A Soldier's Son, about a middle grader dealing with a new school, bullies, a depressed mom, all while trying to live up to the expectation of a father who's serving in Afghanistan.
Sue and Linden will both be sharing their answers on our group blog, Quirk & Quill, so be sure to check it out next Monday!
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