I’ve been tagged by the talented Kristin to share my writing process in the Writer Blog Hop that has been making the rounds in the writing community, (read her response here), and I’m tagging two other writers I know at the end of the post. I hope you will enjoy reading my answers, and theirs, as well.
What am I working on/writing?
I am working through a first draft of a young adult science fiction novel and edits on a young adult contemporary novel. Over at Camp NaNoWriMo I’ve cheekily described the science fiction novel as “your basic girl meets boy meets evil corporation story.” The contemporary novel, on the other hand, is about a girl who is grieving the death of her father and her social life and is determined to do whatever it takes to get her old normal back. Even if it means drowning in untruths and hurting the people who love her most in the process.
How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?
I tend to write about smart girls and the equally nerdy guys who fall for them. I’m a sucker for a great geek romance. Places you will find my characters: libraries, research labs, art classes, and comfy couches at home on which to relax while watching Star Wars (or Star Trek/Stargate/Firefly/Dr. Who, Etc. I don’t discriminate against fandoms).
Why do I write what I do?
I write what I do, partly to satisfy the “what if” itch I get at random times, and partly to make sense of life. One reason I began my contemporary project is because my main character deals with the death of a parent, something she and I share in common. Grief is a catalyst, and its changes are sudden and irrevocable. How she navigates those changes drives the plot of her story forward. In the same way, how I responded to the loss of my mother is something that altered me. I needed to write about how it felt to lose a parent so I could understand my own grief, and so that story was born.
What I write is also influenced by what I most enjoy reading. I am not ashamed to say I read to escape the toughness of life. I want to see another person triumph over challenges both familiar and fantastically unfamiliar. Perhaps it is to feel, deep down, that I could triumph over my own challenges, too. So, just like I read to escape, I also write stories to get away from it all. For instance, the setting in my science fiction project is somewhere I would visit in a heartbeat. Imagine the most exciting, modern city you know. Add futuristic technology and transportation. Now, place it all in the middle of the ocean and throw in some glitterati to inhabit it for good measure. Escapist, much? Yes.
Now, if you asked me why I write what I do while we were both in an elevator or in line at the grocery store, I wouldn’t say all that. (Plus, I’m a writer, not an orator. I need a keyboard or a pad of paper to be even the least bit eloquent.) What I would tell you, instead, is probably this: I write what I do because I can’t NOT write what I do. I tried being more literary in my style and that flopped–it just wasn’t me. I tried to write for older audiences and nothing seemed to flesh out into full-length novels. I even tried quitting writing. And failed. I can’t escape the urge.
I would also tell you I write contemporary and speculative fiction for teenagers and children because that’s what I enjoy reading. I’m a whole teenager away in years from being a teenager at this point–fifteen years, to be precise–but I still gravitate toward the teen section in bookstores because the stories resonate with my inner fourteen year-old. They are stories of social awkwardness, first loves, identity crises, and unbound possibility.
To kinda-sorta paraphrase a teenager I overheard at a coffee shop recently, “Do you like YA? YA is my jam.” (Okay, so she was talking about something else entirely, but it works here, too.)
How does my writing process work?
I love this question, because it really made me think things through. Stories tend to be nebulous bits of emotions and concepts and characters and situations floating around in my subconscious until something clicks and I have to write it all down. I am most inspired by current news and historical reference, because they both bring scenarios to my attention that spark my interest and I have to know more. Why did that happen. How did they discover it? Where else would that be an issue? When will this occur next? What if that happened in a different setting? And sometimes, just what on earth?!? Then I get to work, answering my own questions.
Basically, this is how it all comes together:
- Idea flash! (Quick, write it down.)
- Mull it over. Ask a lot of “what ifs.”
- Fall in love with the characters.
- Fall in love with researching the setting.
- Revisit those characters. What do they want?
- Figure out how to keep it from them so they have to pursue it even harder and move the plot along. (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we writers are such sadists when it comes to our darlings.)
- Pull my hair out over plot.
- A lot.
- Panic. I’m not a writer. How can I call myself a writer? I’m stuck. I’ll always be stuck.
- Oh, wait. I’ve got it!
- Butt in chair.
- Repeat steps 6-11 until I have something to send to beta readers and critique partners.
- Take their advice as needed, and then edit the heck out of that manuscript.
- Let go. (I’m still working on this one.)
There’s more, of course. I’m always learning how to improve my craft. Plot, in particular, is something I consistently study because it comes harder to me.
Off the page, the biggest change in my process in recent years is how intentional I have become about my writing. It chose me, all those years ago, when I first read about Jo and Anne and Emily and realized I, too, could write stories and share them with others. And now I choose it. I choose to consistently spend my precious free minutes writing and editing, when I could be sleeping or dusting or watching television. I choose to keep on going, even when I feel ridiculous, because if I don’t take my chosen career seriously, who will?