Thursday, October 2, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

I was tagged for this by my friend Vijaya Bodach, who, as she says, has powers of persuasion. And besides, this means getting to talk writing, so why not?

1. What are you working on?

Middle-grade fiction, in general. A MG contemporary literary mystery, in particular.

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

Oh boy. Possibly by breaking too many rules. I may come across as basically just a nice girl, but at any given moment I'm probably pushing the envelope, and a rule or two are probably being broken. :)

3. Why do you write what you do?

Good grief, even for someone who likes to ruminate at length, these questions are tough. I can give answer-fragments. Part of it is that my inner 12-year-old is very much alive and well, but she'd like to do a better job of being 12 this time around. Part of it, I'm sure, is that I'm dredging up from my spirit dilemmas and themes that I find important. Part of it is that I love and respect the power and the far reach of truly great MG fiction. And part of it is just mysterious: I do because I do because I do.

4. How does your writing process work? 

When an idea starts, I'm usually scribbling on a legal pad. When there's enough there that it looks like the thing has legs, I get it a three-ring notebook. That's like the commitment stage. I say to it, "You are henceforth a novel." I have sections labeled Characters, Plot, Research, Revision, Setting, Themes, Titles, and any other headings that might apply. This becomes the book's bible. I make notes in each section as the book comes together, in whatever order things come. I spend a lot of time working out the backstory and logic framework: How things got this way and exactly how they hold together. I find a floor plan for any important buildings, sketch maps, make calendars, and at the point where I really feel like I want to start writing, I don't hold back. I start.

I have a sense of the plot when I start, but I never outline fully. That ends up being too much like a pattern I have to follow. I love Larry Brooks's Story Engineering, and I fill out his four-box plot structure on a sheet of 11x17 paper as I write the first draft. So the outline doesn't precede the first draft; it grows alongside it. I loathe index cards.

I do research any and every time a question comes up. Some writers leave holes and come back to those spots later; not me. I find I might learn something that makes or breaks the whole scene, or the whole plot. Better to learn that now. This means that when I go on a writing retreat, I need an internet connection. I have friends whose major purpose for going on a writing retreat is to get offline. For them, a remote cabin with no wi-fi works. I need just a tad more civilization.

Tune in next week, and I'll show you what that "civilization" looks like!


Dr. Cheryl Carvajal said...

I'm much more of a planner… but I'm a reviser through and through… I go back and go back and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

Someday I would just like to finish something!

Mirka Breen said...

Were I to be tagged I'd be tempted to just copy and paste your answers. We must have been twins in some other dimension.

P.S. I hope no one tags me. Copying and pasting is not nice.;)

Leandra Wallace said...

I love what you said about trying to be a better 12 yo a second time around(sorry, paraphrasing here). That is a super good answer and feels like some of the reason why I write YA.

Marcia said...

Cheryl -- Always lots of rewriting to be done, for sure!

Mirka -- I seldom tag people anymore b/c most memes have already thoroughly made the rounds. But I'd love to see your non-copy-pasted twinly answers. :)

Leandra -- In general, I'd much rather go forward than try to relive anything, but there ARE times I'd like another shot at growing up, and this way I get that.

Vijaya said...

Marcia, I love that you break the rules!!! And that you write because you have to. I should get hold of Story Engineering -- you've mentioned it a couple of times ... but I'd never have taken you for an index-card hater. Thank you for playing and I hope Mirka will play too :) Consider yourself tagged.

cleemckenzie said...

I love a good mystery for young readers. Great to hear you're working on one.

Marcia said...

Vijaya -- The section on structure is worth the whole book, although the rest is good, too, particularly on concept.

Lee -- Thanks. I always enjoyed reading them when I was that age. Well, now too!

Kelly Hashway said...

I'm like you. If something comes up and I need to research more, I do it right then and there. You never know where that research will take you.

Faith E. Hough said...

I loved reading this! It's always fun to hear how other writers work. (And I totally forgot that Vijaya tagged me, too...needed the reminder!)
I've never read Story Engineering--will have to find that!

Marcia said...

Kelly -- Exactly!

Faith -- I think it's fun, too, and I look forward to reading yours. :)

janet smart said...

Good answers. I answered these same questions a few weeks ago on my blog. I love revising and I love putting my inner child onto the paper and into my stories.

D.E. Malone said...

Hmmm, four box structure - interesting! I'll have to get a copy of this Story Engineering. I am forever experimenting with plotting methods to make the task easier. Writers' processes always fascinate me. Thanks for sharing yours.

Anonymous said...

Literary contemporary MG sounds fabulous.

Writing about young people somewhat feels like I'm reliving all those emotions.

Marcia said...

Janet -- I love revising, too.

Dawn -- I used the nine-box for a while, too, but the SE method has really stuck with me.

Medeia -- It does. It's almost like I get to be a better kid without having to go back -- which I wouldn't want to do.