Sucker Literary Writing Process Blog Hop

I was tagged by Shelli Cornelison to participate in the Sucker Literary Writing Process Blog Hop. She wrote about her writing process here. At the end of my post, I’ll tag another writer to share their process and the fun will go on.

1. What am I working on?

I am very close to finishing a draft/revision/something of a young adult historical novel. Historical should probably be put in quotes since the novel is set in 1992 and I am not yet ready to concede that 1992 qualifies as historical. On the other hand, it was before iPhones and texting. To teens these days, that might as well be the Dark Ages.

The story is about sensitive, 14-year-old Lucy who is stuck in the small East Texas town of Balentine while her mother cares for her dying great-grandmother. She has no one but her bickering aunts and her gossipy cousin for company until she befriends the town loner, a troubled boy with a reputation for being a devil worshiper.

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

Are there a lot of novels featuring accused teenaged Satanists? I’m guessing there aren’t because every time I give the elevator pitch to someone, they go, “huh.” To be honest, I’m not sure if that’s a “Huh. Interesting.” or “Huh. I should back away slowly.”

Seriously though. . . I’m not really sure. I’m not even sure I could name exactly what genre my work belongs to. For marketing purposes this book is young adult, but I think it has a nostalgia factor that would appeal to adults. If I could invent a brand new category for this book I’d call it contemporary historical. The story may be set 20 years ago, but the themes are universal and contemporary. The stuff that the protagonist is dealing with is stuff we deal with throughout our life — grief, loneliness, injustice.

3. Why do I write what I do?

The short answer is: because I can’t help it. If a character or a story calls to me, I have to write it. I don’t set out to write a historical YA or a literary short story. I write what I write and then people tell me how to categorize it.

I feel like it’s also somewhat uncouth for a writer to admit this, but I write what I do because of my experience.  My work is not autobiographical, but I draw from my emotional well to create characters and situations. I don’t know how else to write. I admire writers who can dish up a story completely from their imagination, but I don’t work that way. In order to get characters with even a hint of authenticity, I have to put a part of myself into the work. It’s also a bit of what makes the work unique, I hope.

4. How does my writing process work?

There’s a reason I called my work-in-progress a draft/revision/something back in question one. My process, especially on this manuscript, can be best described as “all over the place.” I fast drafted this novel about three years ago and promptly stuck it in a drawer because I was in the middle of another revision at the time. I dragged it back out last summer. So it’s partly a revision, in the sense that the story idea was written out once, but it’s also very much a draft, since so much has changed from the original.

I’ve been working with a mentor on this project, which has made me a little more aware of my writing process. For me, the first stage of writing is exploration. I try different plot ideas, characters, dialogue. etc. In the next stage I build on the stuff of the first stage. I bring the characters more into focus, make sure the plot is plausible, layer on more setting and emotion. The last stage is fine tuning: weeding out clichés and improving prose.

Lest you think I’m a really organized writer, let me assure you that these stages are not consecutive. In the finished draft/revision/thing, the first third is probably in its final stage, while the last third is still in the first stage. The process is like waves on the beach. I need to write, explore, and see where my mind takes me. But at a certain point, I feel like I’ve gone too far. I lose the voice. I lose a sense of my character. That’s when I need to go back and reread and revise. After I feel like I have my footing again, it’s back to stage one as I forge ahead in the story. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

. . .

And that’s it for my writing process. Next up is writer and illustrator and fellow Austinite Salima Alikhan. Enjoy!

‘Fess Up Friday: Two steps back

What happened: Twice now I have come on the blog to be all cavalier and like, yay, I’m feeling better. And then it comes back to bite me in the butt. So I’m not saying I’m better. I’m just saying things are not as bad as they have been, healthwise. Anyway.

I get in a pretty rotten emotional place when I get sick. I get tired. I feel bad. I get worried about my health and I end up not doing anything more than what needs to be done to keep my husband and I fed, clothed, and out of complete squalor. And even then, I sometimes fail. So that was last week.

What’s happening now: I’m revising and I’ve had a heck of a time with it. This weekend and earlier this week I tried several times to write the scene that seems to be missing at the end of chapter six. I’d write something and throw it out. Write something else, toss it. Nothing felt right. So then I did something crazy.

I threw out the draft and started retyping it from scratch. Well, not scratch, exactly but the last remaining hard copy I had. Now, I confess, this sounds like a gigantic waste of time, even to me. The Type As out there are probably rolling their eyes. You might be wondering, you couldn’t just edit the manuscript? Turn on track changes and go to town? No and no. I tried going that route and spun my wheels for three days. I tried it this way and typed/revised consistently for four. I like this way better. All the retyping actually helps keep me grounded in the novel so that when it’s time to completely revise or write a scene from scratch, I already feel like I’m there, you know? It’s like half the battle is already won.

At some points in the process, it’s simply data entry. At other points, it’s blood, sweat, and tears writing. But you know what? Even at the points where it’s just data entry, it’s still much better than sitting on my couch, agonizing over why I’m not creative enough to find the right ending for the end of chapter six. It feels like taking two steps back, but it’s not.

What I predict will happen: I’m still on target to have this revision finished by the end of the month. If I average about two chapters a day, I think I’ll be doing good.

What I am learning: Just as every writer’s process is different, so is every writing project. I never would have imagined doing this before, but this project calls for it and so I heed.

Happy writing, everyone!