So I have been tagged in a thing that has been circulating around a lot of writer’s blogs recently, fondly known as #MyWritingProcess, in which writers answer a series of questions about their work. Since I got tagged twice by my two critique partners, I felt like I should probably do it.
Here’s a better explanation of what it is that I didn’t write:
We writers share these things, but informally during workshops and at conferences (and, for a handful of established writers, in printed interviews), but not so much through our open-forum blogs. With the hashtag #MyWritingProcess, you can learn how writers all over the world answer the same four questions. How long it takes one to write a novel, why romance is a fitting genre for another, how one’s playlist grows as the draft grows, why one’s poems are often sparked by distress over news headlines or oddball facts learned on Facebook…
So. Let’s do this.
1) What am I working on?
Right now, I’m in a period of between. I am just about to jump into edits on THE SHADOW BOYS ARE BREAKING. Meanwhile, the first draft of a newer manuscript, this one about gender and first love during the Dutch tulipomania, is being mulled over by one of my lovely critique partners. So at this moment, I’m less working and more waiting.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Since SHADOW BOYS is pretty understandably on my brain, let’s talk about that!
What makes this book different from all the other young adult historical fantasy books1 coming out next year? Here are five things:
- It is a steampunk book that is not set in Victorian England and has no magic
- The story centers around a sibling relationship, not a romantic one
- There are old-school cyborgs
- The main character does not like to read or love books
- It includes 100% more gears, Coleridge, dissections, half-human monsters, book throwing, clock towers, unsexy kissing, spiced wine, and Christmas markets than almost any other YA book out there. Guaranteed.
3) Why do I write what I do?
So I write primarily things set in the past. I was a history major in undergrad, and I first found my love of history through historical fiction. I love reading historical fiction because it feels like fantasy—a time and place too far away from where we are now for me to imagine as someone’s reality—but the times and places are real, and we are connected to those stories by the universalities of the human experience. Sounds corny, but that’s why I love historical fiction. It makes history somehow feel simultaneously impossible and real.
4) How does your writing process work?
Now this is the question, isn’t it? I’m still trying to figure out if it does actually work.
When I first get an idea, I resist the urge to start writing immediately because that generally results in fifty or so misguided pages that trickle into nothing and abandonment. Instead, I usually spend six months to a year with an idea bouncing around inside me before I ever put pen to paper2. This period of researched-fueled incubation can be best summed up by a quote from Emerson Cod, the private detective in Pushing Daisies: “Well that idea just made a stupid idea feel better about itself.” The year a book spends in my head is my chance to get all the bad ideas out of my system (and let me assure you, these ideas are bad. I just found my original outline for SHADOW BOYS and…let’s just say I spent a lot of time way off base) and give the good ones a chance to fight their way through.
After a year, I still don’t know everything about the story, but I know enough that I can crank out a first draft3. Even though that first draft is barely readable and generally a mess, it is how I figure things out. Terry Pratchett says a first draft is just you telling yourself the story. I learn what my own book is about by writing it. Once that first draft is done, I let it rest for a while. This distance gives me time to get unattached emotionally from what I wrote and be more objective about it. And then…revise! Revise revise revise! Which is fun and hard and there’s no process or rhyme or reason to this, it varies so much between projects.
An unrelated but really important part of every book I write is the creation of two things: the Pinterest board and the playlist. I love finding songs and images4 and poems and lyrics and art that relates to my project in a variety of ways. I’ve found answers to plot questions and character conundrums in songs and art. Sometimes I find images that I like so much I work the image into my project. The Pinterest board and the playlist are both crucial to my process, and provide me with something other than an open word document to stare at when I get stuck.
And that’s my process! Now, the hop continues! I’m tagging:
Rebecca Wells, a Simmons MFA-er, bookseller, and writer whose prose will make you weep with envy.
Jessica Arnold author of the delightfully creepy YA novel The Looking Glass, eBook designer, and magic enthusiast. That last thing is only sort of a lie.
- All two of them.
- Or rather fingers to keyboard.
- It should be noted that I do not go back and revise as I draft. It’s the only way I keep my forward momentum.
- In spite of being a writer, I’m really visual.