One of my Middle-Grade Minded Blog buddies, Tom Mulroy, invited me be part of the Writing Process Blog Tour. If you aren’t familiar with this super-cool tour, it involves different writers responding to questions about their writing process, then passing the same question on to other writers, and so on. Writing and talking about writing are two of my favorite things to do so I jumped on board… or blog… hmmm.
And here are the questions Tom handed off to me, with my answers.
What are you working on? What’s getting the most attention right now is a story I previously wrote as a YA and am changing to MG. It’s about a girl named Robin who has perfected the act of being someone she isn’t. When one of her best friends from elementary school, Dani, is selected as the new target for her “friends” to pick on and tear down, Robin figures out a way to help her old friend best her current friends by preparing Dani for what they'll say, what they'll do and how to beat them to the punch. What started as a one-time project rapidly multiplies with requests from girls that want her to help them, too. When Robin’s popular-or-die friends hear the buzz about the Robin Hood Club and her clients, especially Dani, push Robin to choose one side or the other, Robin is forced to confront warring loyalties and decide for herself who she really is.
How does your work differ from others of its genre? Most of my stories are based on at least a thread of something that happened to me. I have never written a novel without including some of my real-life experiences. My characters are typically girls who clumsily trip through life, bouncing from mistake to mistake, to figure out who they really are and what they stand for.
Why do you write what you do? I’ve been a teacher of students ranging in age from 7 – 18. Watching them struggle with every day problems and much bigger, life-altering problems, fuels me to help people find their own gifts and strengths and purpose… and that what you’ve survived is never an excuse for giving up on yourself.
Also, someone once told me that writing was just a hobby and I’ve spend every day since then proving that person wrong.
How does your writing process work? You’re probably going to want to skip over this because… my process? It’s a P-R-O-C-E-S-S! And I’m pretty sure I’m the only who gets excited talking about it. But if you’re game, it goes something like this:
Cool idea gets me excited about a new story.
Title. I have to have some sort of working title before I can move on. I will seriously not write a single word until I have this.
Character names! I love and hate this process, but the names – like the title – have to fit my characters.
Story development (the REAL work).
I break the story in the quarters. In each quarter, I write some things that will happen and the turning point that leads to the next quarter. This involves chart paper, markers, and sticky notes, so I am very, very happy during this process.
I then break down each quarter into chapters and write a quick description of each chapter.
Then… yes there’s more… then I break it down into scenes.
At that point, I generally create a rough synopsis and then…. THEN I BEGIN WRITING!
I have some great critique partners that are also some of my best friends and they keep me (and my story) in line. So, I give them a chance to make it better.
I write a really clean first draft, so my revisions are almost 100% story-related (characters who don’t make sense or who show up out of no where and why is there a pelican on your porch in Denver?)
I revisit the synopsis and make it more detailed and accurate.
From there, it goes to my agent, who then reminds me I’m nothing without her and makes the story even better!
The most frequently asked question I get is how long it takes me to write a book. When I finally quit coloring and spreading colorful sticky-notes on chart after chart, I write quickly. All three of my published novels have been written and edited and ready for submission in less than 2 months.
The next most frequently asked question (by MG readers) is how it feels to be famous. Is it rude to laugh when people ask me that? I’m pretty sure it’s rude. But I’m even surer that the truth about how “unfamous” I really am will only quell their memory of meeting a “real author.”
If you have some fun answers that I could use instead of rude, obnoxious laughter, please, please, please leave a comment below and I’ll enter you into a drawing for my July MG release with Aladdin, The XYZs of Being Wicked.