Writing Process Blog Tour – Why and How I Write What I Do

Recently I was tagged by the lovely and talented Melissa Wiley to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Sounded like fun — and only four questions! But I have to say, a couple of them really made me stop and think about the actual steps in my messy, mysterious process.

So here we go…

What are you working on?

Lots of things, and all of them in the early delicate phases, so I shall not speak of them. This is part superstition and part protectiveness, but also prudence. My projects can change a lot from inception to publication, so I don’t want to mislead anyone or set myself up for lengthy explanations later.

Middle Grade Mayhem book covers

Check out the crossed-arm attitude on all three covers!

I’m also working on publicity for my new book REVENGE OF THE FLOWER GIRLS. I’m about to have a big bash at our local indie bookstore BookPeople in Austin.  Varian Johnson (THE GREAT GREENE HEIST), Greg Leitich Smith (LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN) and I all have middle grade novels emerging at the same time, so we’re teaming up for a triple threat launch party called ‘Middle Grade Mayhem.” I can’t disclose too many details beyond the necessary (Book People, June 14, 2 pm.), but I will say that I’ve been purchasing items at costume shops and ordering wedding cake — and I’ll point out that each of our books involve capers, mischief, and shenanigans.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

I think each author has a comfort zone and my brand of contemporary realistic fiction, according to other people’s descriptions, is quirky and “voice-y,” usually with a romantic subplot.

I love human folly.  I love eccentric characters.  I love the ups and downs that day-to-day life can bring – particularly when you are young.  You don’t usually find deep dramatic issues in my book — being a teen or tween is enough of a hardship in itself, so often there’s no need for added woes.  Instead, I enjoy exploring the tragi-comedy of relationships, be they romantic, friendly, or familial, and the whole search for self that young people go through.

Why do you write what you do?

Because I don’t want to grow up.  Because I don’t want to lose my sense of wonder or stop asking silly questions or stop laughing at the ridiculousness of things.

It has been said that authors work toward a particular truth with everything they write. If there is a theme that is present in all of my books, it’s the quest to find one’s true voice and lead an authentic life.  But, of course, I present it in a sort of screwball comedy way, so you might have to really look for it.

How does your writing process work?

It’s long and sloppy and tough to describe. I typically start with a … pull.  Most of the time it’s a character in my head. He/she hangs around for a while and eventually tells me his/her story.  Or it’s a question, which then conjures a character who then dictates the plot.

There’s that initial period when ideas cook and then, sooner or later, I attempt to capture the essence on the page. I try to nail down the character voice and tone and pacing. If I get a scene or two pretty close to what’s in my head, then I can start writing the outline.  I always outline.  Have to.  If I don’t, I’ll lose the plot.  Sometimes those early, pre-outline writings end up in the book; other times they aren’t even true “scenes” — just the nebula that spawns the story. Once I have an outline that holds up, I draft. I self-edit a little as I go along, but I save real revisions for when I’m done. I don’t like to be too aware of myself creating as I create, and putting on an editor hat while drafting can prevent me from fully disappearing into the story.  Once I’m done I do a quick clean-up pass but I don’t revise until I’ve walked away from it for a while. I also try to get feedback from my agent, editor, or my writing group. Then comes the major surgery on the manuscript.

Next … 

I now tag one of my favorite people in the industry (and on the planet) — Ruth McNally Barshaw. I can’t wait to read about her creative process. I hope she includes a couple of her amazing, charming, truth-containing sketches. (Hint, Ruth. Hint, hint…)


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