Monday, May 5, 2014

My Writing Process--A Blog Tour

Sitting down to write this entry, I'm a little tempted to give a shout-out to my favorite book title ever (for its shlockiness and snickery brand of subconscious quasi-half-truth, not its literary merit): Chain Letter 2: The Ancient Evil. Not to say chain-blogs (i.e., blog tours) are bad, necessarily, they're just, well, time-consuming. As a newbie writer, however, I remember devouring posts like this one, trying to glean some insight into what the day-to-day lives of professional writers look like. Also, I get that it's tricky to convince fellow authors to participate (all of a sudden, the term blog hiatus seems to have entered the writerly lexicon with a vengeance), so I went ahead and said yes when a dear friend asked me to participate. That said, Sylvia Mendoza is an amazing author and journalist who writes everything from celebrity profile articles to international human-interest political pieces to spicy-hot romance novels. Quite the range, no? Check her stuff out--you'll be glad you did!

Anyway, the deal with this blog tour is to cover four questions, so let's get on with it, shall we?

(1) What am I working on?

Right now, I'm in the early stages of developing a new YA novel. I write under three different names, but I want this project to be under my *real* name, so I'm hoping it'll be a project my agent can shop and sell early next year. 

As a planner (NOT a pantser), I believe in outlining my projects extensively before beginning the actual writing. Working with my editors at Alloy Entertainment on If I Die Before I Wake reinforced this tendency, as they're story-structure gurus with a proven track record. Basically, working with them was like getting paid to earn an MFA, so I'm hoping to bring some of the skills I learned while writing for them to my next project.

(2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Wow--tough question. Um, I'm kind of a weirdo? So my written voice is accordingly kind of quirky and unique? I guess that's my best answer. Stories that are thematically more literary, I treat with a commercial approach, while commercial premises, I like to venture into literary territory with, blending the two camps so the reader (hopefully) gets lost in my characters' journeys, rather than noticing the language or plot devices.

(3) Why do I write what I do?

I love writing about teenagers in tough circumstances who make bad decisions. Those are the types of stories I enjoy reading, so those are the stories I want to write. Growing up, I made plenty of mistakes and wound up living through the consequences. Also, no one's family life is perfect, and I get that. Neat, tidy lives don't make for good storytelling, so the messier the better.

(4) How does your writing process work?

During development, I like to take about a month to ruminate over what I'm going to do and where I'm going to go with a story. Long hikes, road trips, hot showers, and plenty of time spent in the jacuzzi are all part of this process. Once I get my ideas, I start making notes, outlining, then drawing up character profiles. 

When I have my outline where I want it, I begin writing. Each day, I have a specific goal in mind. Before I start writing each day, however, I like to get some exercise. For some reason, I find that I think more clearly after breaking a sweat. The other thing I like to do before starting my daily work is journaling. I'm a big believer in morning pages (and artist's dates--go Julia Cameron!), as I believe that writing begets more writing, and it's a good idea to clear all the junk from my brain before trying to actually produce quality story material.

Once I finally get to it, in terms of story-writing time, I don't like to write for more than four hours per day. After that, my brain gets a little fried, so I find it's best to know my limits and plan accordingly. 

Word-count targets are helpful, too. Back when I first started writing, I was a busy stay-at-home mom of three kids (two of whom were still in diapers). The most I could manage was 500 words four times per week. That might not sound like much, but it adds up to 2000 words per week. Given enough weeks, that's enough to finish a full-length manuscript inside of a year. I write faster these days, but my kids are all teenagers now, so my best advice to new writers out there is to be kind to yourself, allowing for reality while still making writing time a priority.

Since the Writing Process Blog Tour is a tag-team effort, I'd like you to meet two of my good friends:

Originally from Tennessee, Dana Elmendorf now lives in Southern
California with her husband, two boys, and her tiny dog. She writes YA
contemporary romances with plenty of kissing. She's rep'd by Lauren MacLeod
at the Strothman Agency.

Cody Goodfellow is an author, composer, futurist raconteur, and unstoppable sex machine. His newest book is Repo Shark. Read his upcoming blog post here.