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Monday, May 12, 2014

Writers On Writing

Last week Colin D. Smith and Katy Upperman each blogged about their writing processes. You should check out their posts (Colin’s is hereKaty’s is here, and for good measure here’s Rebekah Faubion’s, whose tag I didn’t accept a few weeks ago because I was swamped) because it’s fascinating to learn how other writers approach writing a novel. Both tagged me to answer the same questions about my own writing, so here I go…

I’m waiting on a couple more beta notes on my YA sci-fi. I’ve mostly spent the month of April away from it while it was in the hands of beta readers and while my hands (okay, my wrists) took some time to stop aching. Once I compile those notes, I’ll do a final revision before I begin querying.

While I’ve been taking a carpal tunnel syndrome–prompted writing vacation, I’ve been brainstorming a YA fantasy that won’t leave me alone. I blogged about my worries with that (mostly about doing an adequate job world-building), but the more I research and brainstorm, the more I think this will be the next story I write—not the YA sci-fi I had in mind.

I’m also writing a YA contemporary that I mostly work on when I need to write something light and fun and unlike anything else I tend to write. I’ve been writing it for a long time, adding to it here and there when I get the bug. Maybe it’ll never be done, but it’s a fun break from the more serious tone my other writing takes.

Katy mentioned this in her blog post, and I have to agree that my writing voice is probably what most sets my work apart from others like it. I’ve been told I have a very distinctive voice. I’ve also been told that about my singing voice, by the way, but in those cases I think “distinctive” is a synonym for “terrifying.”

I also find myself writing about a lot of medical conditions or health science stuff (probably because I’m a health journalist), whether that means giving my main character an illness or basing future tech off brain function.

This is hard to say because I imagine I’d write anything if the story was something I’d personally want to read—young adult sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, paranormal, and so on. But really the one thing I always seem to be writing is young adult fiction. I have no better reason than that I enjoy reading teen books. I love all of the doubts and complications that teens face, and most of all I love all of the first: first kiss, first time you lose a friend, first driving lesson, and so on. Regardless of whether you’re writing about an alien teen, a teen from the twelfth century, or a modern teen, your character is going to experience some things for the first time—and that’s incredibly fun to write.

If you had asked me this a few years ago, I would have had an entirely different answer, but ever since I bought Scrivener my planning and writing process is much more efficient. I usually start by simply thinking about an idea. I’ll let myself daydream about it, let scenes play out while listening to music. Once I have a basic idea for a story, I start collecting information—photo inspiration, research, possible plot threads, character ideas, and so on. I keep a Pinterest board for inspiration, add web research links to my Scrivener document, and keep about a million pages full of different half-baked ideas. (What if her boyfriend kills her father with a turkey baster? Maybe there’s no such thing as money!)*

Once I have the basic idea of the plot, an opening scene, and ending, I begin to plan. I do a lot of world-building beforehand, especially for sci-fi or fantasy novels, then make a rough outline. Once that’s done, I get to writing.

I read somewhere (wouldn’t it be nice if I could remember where and point you to the exact article?) that to write faster you should have an idea of what you’re going to write before you begin. This is pretty brilliant, so I start a writing session knowing what I want to happen in a scene or chapter—even something as basic as “MC gets angry at someone”—then go from there. The next day, I read over the last chapter I wrote to get back into things.

And while I can’t listen to music with lyrics while I write, I like to listen to movie scores with the same tone as the book or scene I’m writing. Knowing the tone I want to evoke in each scene makes it much easier for me to determine how I want to write the scene.

After the first draft, I pretend I’ve written a masterpiece and spend at least a week believing that before diving into the pile o’ crap for many rounds of revisions.

And now I’m going to tag Alison Miller and Alice (aka Krispy) check out their blogs next Monday to read their answers to these questions.

Hit the comments to answer one of these questions about your writing process!

*These are, thankfully, not actual ideas I’ve considered.

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