One of my writer friends, the ever-supportive and talented Pat Esden
, opened her tags to any writing friends, and since I'm at the very beginning of a major
revision (synonym for daunting) and will leap at any chance to procrastinate, I waved my hand like the over-eager student who knows the answer.
Here goes:What are you currently working on?
The major revision is to More than A Stage
, a contemporary YA that follows aspiring Broadway baby Heidi MIretti through a summer of drama both on and off the stage.
A fictional TV series (Hotspurs Harriers
) plays a role, and it's been terrific fun casting and writing episode synopses for this mash-up of Star Trek
, Battlestar Galactica
and Shakespeare, all so the fictional star can play a pivotal role in Heidi's story.
It's also been a pleasure to re-immerse myself in the world of theater, which was my high school passion, and in these particular works: The Importance of Being Earnest, Midsummer Night's Dream
, The Odd Couple
, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
.How does my work differ from others of its genre?More than a Stage
reflects my interest in teens following their passions, not only in romance but in their vocation; it could be pitched as a Nina LaCour's Everything Leads to You
meets E. Lockhart's Dramarama.
I consider gender and sexuality spectrums, so my characters are as likely to be LGBTQ as straight and cisgender. When the novel opens, Heidi is an out and proud lesbian with girlfriend, and a BFF whose boyfriend likes to wear skirts. (Their story is told in a companion novel, Skirting the Truth
.)Why do I write what I write?
Stories seem to choose me as much as I choose them. Something happens that makes me ask one of two questions: "What did it take for that person to do that
? or "What if?" Most of those questions seem to have to do with gender, particularly gender roles, which isn't surprising since I have been fascinated by the arbitrary nature of most--if not all--gender roles as distributed among both men and women.
My YA novels include at least an element of romance, because I love romance of the Jane Austen persuasion--the characters finding the person who is right for them--and because I think there's nothing more difficult than opening up to another person when you are already vulnerable, taking the risk of being rejected and hurt. Romance or not, the inner journeys my characters make and their response to the world around them is what fascinates me, as does the way people pursue whatever they're passionate about, whether it's the arts, sports, gaming or superheroes.How does my Individual writing process work?
It all starts with one of those two questions I mentioned (possibly both). After that, two things can happen. The best case scenario is and immediate answer which leads to another possibility and another and another, until the whole basic story has arrived. This has happened to me exactly once. I don't expect it to happen again, although I would love it to.
The second possibility is that I can't stop thinking about the question and the situation or person that prompted it. That sort of obsession means I've got a story worth sticking with, even if it takes a year or five for the elements to come together. That's what happened with Heidi. By the time I'd finished a draft of Skirting the Truth
, she'd become such a fascinating character, I wanted to give her her own story. It was more than a year before I chanced on the germ of the plot.
Once I have the elements--characters and plot concept--I start drafting. I get enough down so that I have a sense not only of where things are going but--most important--that they are going. I'm talking the basic "this is how I am going to tell the story"--the voice, the point of view, the tense, the characters (character definitely comes first for me), a sense of what the Big Events are, the basic structure, or at least what I think the structure will be.
Once I have those elements, I plot. I'm not a real outliner, but I get out index cards and markers and other fun office supplies, a trick I picked up from my advisor Tom Birdseye
(you can see some of his index cards on the wall behind him). I and make a guide: This is how I think I'm getting to those major plot points. They go up on a bulletin board and serve as guides.
I love the index card guides because they let me write scenes out of order. At this point, my focus is on getting the story out, whatever it takes, and sometimes that's writing scenes in order and sometimes it's working on an early chapter one day and a late chapter the next. Work on an easy chapter when I'm tired or a difficult chapter when I know it's time. The index cards let me do that. I may stop to do character studies, or fact check something (show tunes in the case of More than a Stage
), but I don't do that unless, for some reason, I'm bogged down. One thing I don't do is look back. If I know something has to change, I make a note and move on (sometimes with "Boys of Summer" playing on repeat). I do it this way because things happen, wonderful surprises, when I'm not too tied down.
Some people call this the discovery draft, some people call it a pre-first draft. I call it making marble. This draft will be the block from which the final sculpture will be carved. The rough shaping that is revision brings the index cards and markers out again, highlighting the wonderful surprises, deleting the planned things that weren't as good (or that turned out to be redundant but that allowed me to get to the wonderful surprises). Revision is where I get ruthless. If it doesn't serve the story, it has to go. Cut, cut, cut. Chisel, chisel, chisel. Until finally the novel is ready for a final polish.
And now it's time to tag friends. I'm going to tag any of my fellow Magic Ifs (VCFA January 2014) who haven't participated in The Writing Process Blog Tour. You know who you are.