Today, for something a little different, I'm participating in a blog hop that's been making the rounds lately: My Writing Process. I was tagged by the lovely and talented Ghenet Myrthil (follow her on Twitter), who I've known since grad school. We got our MFAs in Creative Writing from The New School together, and I'm lucky to still have Ghenet as one of my manuscript readers to this day! So here we go. Blog hop ahoy.
What Am I Working On?
Right now, I am first-drafting a new manuscript with the working title EVERYTHING'S BEAUTIFUL. It's a YA Contemporary about a 16-year-old ballet dancer with body image issues who gets sent to an anxiety camp for elite teen artists and athletes. This book is pretty personal to me because, well, I was a teen ballet dancer with body image issues—so I've been struggling to get the story right and figure out who my character really is, separate from me and my own experiences. I think I'm finally on the right track, but I don't want to give any more details away until I'm sure!
How Does My Work Differ From Others of Its Genre?
There is a lot of *amazing* YA Contemporary out there. Rather than think about how I stand apart from those wonderful authors, I guess I want to try to join their ranks! I want to create honest, lyrical stories where the prose is finely crafted and the characters and their journeys strike a true chord. That said, my book that's coming out from HarperCollins in early 2015, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND, does tackle a subject that I don't think appears often enough in YA literature: faith. The characters in TDBL&F start off in a religious setting (before getting lost in the mountains), and faith is a thread that runs through the book. Religion is a fact of so many teens' lives, to varying degrees, and those teens deserve to see their world and their struggles reflected in their literature.
Why Do I Write What I Do?
The book I'm working on now is only my third novel, but based on my experience so far, I'd say I write stories that captivate me. Whether that starts with the main character, as both TDBL&F and my new WIP did, or with an image/idea I can't get out of my head, as was the case with the book I was working on during and just after grad school (a YA fantasy that's currently on hold, but might be reborn as MG), when something fills my brain, I know I need to write that book. That's why although I've recently been writing YA Contemporary, I can't say for certain that's all I'll ever write!
How Does My Writing Process Work?
I'm a full-time freelance writer, so fiction-writing is just one of each day's many writing obligations. But that's my process: I do as much freelance work as I need to, money-wise, without taking on so much that I don't have time to devote to writing books. The nature of freelance writing means I have heavy periods and light periods, so how much time gets allocated to book-writing can vary. So does the time of day I write. When I'm really in a writing groove, I'll start with fiction in the morning, because I just can't wait. Then, when I absolutely have to, I'll switch to other work. When I'm not chomping at the bit to work on my book, I'll sometimes get the freelance work out of the way first and save the book-writing for later. I usually take a dance or yoga class in the middle of the day, to get away from my computer and clear my head. Basically, every day is different!
As far as the actual writing process, I'm still finding what works best. My first book was workshopped in grad school, which meant I was writing and getting feedback in short chunks. When I started TDBL&F, I wanted to go to the opposite extreme and write a complete first draft before showing anyone any of it. For that book, I did two separate rounds of feedback from beta-readers on complete drafts—and the third draft was the one that attracted my agent. My new WIP has been in the works for almost a year, and I've started it over and over, trying to figure out what it needs to be. I've shown various versions of the beginning to several readers, including my agent, and have taken their feedback before moving forward. Now I finally feel like I'm at a point where I can confidently finish the first draft. Who knows what my process will be for my next book...
Regardless, I am a loose outliner—I like to have key scenes and a rough arc in mind, but I also like to see where the story and characters take me. I like to get to know my characters organically, rather than drawing them out in detail beforehand. Some of my favorite scenes and conversations in TDBL&F were as much a surprise to me as they were to the characters!
Okay—now it's my turn to tag some other writer/bloggers. I've drafted two of my fellow YA Buccaneers: Heidi Sinnett and Erin L. Schneider. Heidi is a children's librarian who writes YA Contemporary, and is represented by Marlene Stringer of the Stringer Literary Agency. She describes her writing as "too ambitious (sometimes), honest, and twisty." Erin describes her writing as "real, humorous, and relatable." She's been writing seriously for six years and is represented by Lisa Grubka of Fletcher & Company. They'll both be sharing their My Writing Process posts next week!
A brief update on the YAB Bootcamp front: I added another few thousand words to EVERYTHING'S BEAUTIFUL last week, bringing the current total up to 55,409 words. I'm on chapter 14 out of I think 20. Two of those chapters are already written and just need to be revised (and one will be cut down by half), while the rest are loosely outlined and need to be written from scratch. I think I am still on track to have a finished first draft by the end of May! Fingers crossed… (and hard work ahead!)