ETA: A quick note before we begin ~ My blog is wonky for some reason. The animated gifs aren’t working, and the sidebar is missing (sometimes). I’m clueless when it comes to techy woo-woo stuff, so I alerted my web designer to the problem, and she is trying to fix it. But I don’t want to let frozen gifs and missing sidebars stop me from participating in the “My Writing Process” blog hop, so I went ahead and wrote my post anyway. The content is still here, and that’s the important part. So, here we go!
E(again)TA: My web designer did some techy woo-woo magic, and now the gifs are working, and my sidebar is back. Now you can read this blog post in all its gif-tastic glory. Hooray!
I am thrilled to be part of a blog-hop project that explores various authors’ writing processes. I was tagged in the blog hop by my agency-sis, the lovely Mary Elizabeth Summer. You can read about her writing process on her blog. Her debut TRUST ME, I’M LYING is coming out on October 14, 2014 from Delacorte Press. It’s a YA mystery/thriller, which is one of my favorite kinds of books (obvs)! TRUST ME, I’M LYING is one of my most-anticipated reads of 2014. I strongly suggest you add it to Goodreads here!
Okay: My writing process. Here are my answers to the four blog-hop questions:
1. What am I working on now?
Both books in my RUN TO YOU series are “in the can.” Book One released in February as a three-part serial, and I turned in my final edits for Book Two last week (it’s releasing in July, also as a three-part serial).
So, I am now giving my full attention to my new manuscript, a dark, dark, dark ripped-from-the-headlines YA contemporary in the vein of LIVING DEAD GIRL and PRETTY GIRL 13. Four years after being abducted, a teenage girl escapes and returns home, only to discover that her family, distraught over her disappearance, has fallen apart. The only way she can help find the body of her kidnapper’s previous captive is to heal her broken family as well as herself. It’s a heartbreaking yet ultimately hopeful story of a girl’s journey from victim to survivor. I wrote the first draft way back in 2011 as a NaNoWriMo project. Then I put it away to work on RUN TO YOU, but I’ve thought about this manuscript every single day since then. Sometimes I even dream about it. I’m so excited to work on it again.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I write dark fiction for young adults. Whether the story I’m writing is paranormal or contemporary, a thriller, a mystery, or a romance (or any combination of the above) it is YA, and it has some dark elements. Many of my books–the ones I’ve already written, the one I’m writing now, and the ones I’ll write in the future–feature dysfunctional families, and they carry the theme of overcoming traumatic experiences. My teenage heroines are realistic and relatable: sometimes they make the wrong choices, sometimes they’re scared, sometimes they’re insecure (just like you and me). I use a lot of emotion in my books, from devastation to fury to elation – my books have all the feels.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I write YA because I read YA. I write dark because I read dark. I write books with lots of emotion because my favorite books have lots of emotion.
4. How does your writing process work?
My writing process starts with a seedling of an idea. A word I overhear at a party, a tattoo I see on someone’s wrist, a headline I spy in a magazine. Sometimes the entire plot comes to me in an instant. Sometimes I have to nurture that seedling to make it grow into a full-blown plot.
Before I write one word of my manuscript, I brainstorm and outline the plot based on Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure using Post-It notes on the wall.
Next step: I write in a lot of different places (in my writing cave, at the library, in coffee shops, at my friends’ houses, at writing retreats). Because I can’t carry that wall with me everywhere I go, I transcribe my Post-It outline to my laptop, on a mind-mapping program called Scapple.
Then, finally, I start writing the manuscript using the best novel-writing software in the history of the universe and beyond, Scrivener.
My first draft is a mess. It is not fit for human consumption. I actually don’t call it a first draft—I call it a discovery draft because it’s just to see what I have. I write the discovery draft as fast as I can, without going back to edit. If I realize something needs to change, I make an annotation, then keep moving forward as if I’d already made the revision.
When the discovery draft is done, I print it out and make notes with my favorite pen, a red fine-point Sharpie (which, for reasons long forgotten, I’ve named Amazing Grace). Using my notes, I re-write the entire thing. Throughout this stage, I do a lot of brainstorming. I use Scapple to brainstorm everything from the overall plot down to each scene. I also consult with my author friends. Sometimes I forgo the computer and use a notebook and pen to work my way out of a problem – I’ve been doing that more and more lately.
There are major revisions in this second draft. Chapters are moved from Stage Two to Stage Five to Stage Three. Characters change from cocky to nice, or from nice to cocky. I pick a different villain. Entire chapters are cut. Entire chapters are added. This draft is by far the hardest draft to write and it takes me the longest. But revisions are my favorite part of the entire process. I love taking that mess of a first draft and cutting and adding and massaging each chapter, scene, and sentence to perfection.
Once the second draft is finally finished, I send the manuscript to my trusty critique partners. When they return it, the revision process begins again as I incorporate their feedback, along with any insights I may have had. After a final polish, I send the manuscript to my editor and/or agent. And then it’s time for a happy dance:
Of course, then the revisions start all over again, beginning with the edit letter, then the line edits, and so on…
Miscellaneous notes about my writing process:
- I make playlists for each of my manuscripts, and I listen to them over and over again while I write each draft. You can find my playlists for the RUN TO YOU series on Spotify.
- While I write, I keep my computer’s wifi on in case I need to research something, but I block my access to social media and email on my computer, my phone, and my tablet. Otherwise I would procrastinate all day long. Social media + email = timesuck.
Okay! That’s my writing process! To continue the blog hop, I’ve tagged two of my favorite YA authors:
- Marni Bates, author of the adorable Smith High series: AWKWARD, INVISIBLE, NOTABLE, and AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER. Marni is super-fun, super-sweet, and I love her blog.
- Heidi R. Kling, author of the award-winning contemporary SEA, and bestselling fantasy The Spellspinners of Melas County serialized series: WITCH’S BREW, THE GLEANING, and DEVIL’S FROST (with more to come). Heidi is one of my new favorite authors. You can find her blog here.
Watch their blogs for their writing-process posts!