All About #MyWritingProcess

So I was tagged by the awesome Kelly Fiore (@kellyannfiore) for the #mywritingprocess blog meme. I love deconstructions like this, and I jumped at the chance to be involved. So if you ever wanted a peak behind the curtain, to learn how and why I write the weird stories that I write, this one’s for you!

What am I working on now?
I always have lots of irons in the fire. That thing they say about a writer’s brain being like a web browser with a thousand tabs open – yeah, totally true. When I’m not plotting world domination or figuring out how to catch the Joker, I’m usually writing or thinking about writing.

Right now I have three active projects and several back-burner projects. In the number one spot, the full manuscript of my MG mystery novel THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING is currently sitting on several agents’ desks. Number two, my current work-in-progress, is a YA contemporary with hints of sci-fi, and I’m about 40% finished with the first draft. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever written and I’m relishing the challenge. Number three is something VERY different for me, and I haven’t revealed it to many people until now – I wrote a picture book called ARE THERE COOKIES IN SPACE? It’s quirky and whimsical and I had a ton of fun writing it, and last week I sent out the first query letters.

In between these projects, I’m always jotting down new ideas and chipping away at world building or character development for upcoming stories.

How does my work differ from others?
I’d love for anyone who’s read my work to share their thoughts below. What do you think?

In my own mind, I feel like I combine genres in a unique way. I never want a story to be just one straightforward thing, so it’s fun to twist genre conventions, and I always challenge myself to surprise the reader in a way they haven’t seen or thought of before. For instance, my aim for THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING was to create fun characters whose dialogue and interactions would make the reader laugh, but they also had to fit in a story that’s essentially a mystery thriller. I didn’t want any humor in the creepy scenes because it would undercut the gravity of the situation. So I had to balance the desire to have funny characters while also providing genuine scares and intensity. It was such a fun challenge, and so far people seem to like it, so hopefully I succeeded.

Why do I write what I do?
Mostly, I write what excites me. That could equally apply to pulse-pounding action or scenes of quiet dialogue. I write what engages me emotionally, and what keeps me writing (even through the rough patches) is the excitement of sharing those characters and those worlds with other people. Every time I sit down to write, readers come to my mind and I think, “Just wait until you see what I’ve got to show you today.”

How does my writing process work?
From start to finish, my typical writing process walks the line between order and chaos. When I first hatch a story idea, I don’t employ any structure at all to the process. I just think about it and jot down whatever seems like a good idea. At this point, nothing is off limits. My next step usually involves building a music playlist, as music plays a huge part in my process. I pick songs that fit the mood and intent of the story, and as I listen to them I get ideas for specific scenes and character moments. Usually, the characters and the world they inhabit begin to grow together organically and feed each other’s development.

Once I have a solid grasp on the characters and the story arc, I get more organized. This is when the outlining begins, and I typically use three types of outlines. Outline 1 is a broad overhead view of the world and the story, including the major story beats and character milestones. Outline 2 zooms in closer and fills in the spaces between those big moments, fleshing out character details and the cause-and-effect for each event. Outline 3 goes scene by scene and reads kind of like a film script, plotting out the characters’ actions and some of their dialogue. Once that’s done, I’m ready to write the finished product.

Having said all that, I believe a writer grows from challenging their own process and breaking out of their comfort zone. To that end, I’m using a completely different approach for my current WIP. No outlines, minimal planning ahead, just working through scenes and letting the characters breathe, while also keeping in mind the direction of the story. I’ve never written a full-length novel in this way before, and it’s a unique and exciting challenge.

How about all of you? Why do you write what you do, and how do you write it? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time, suit up and get writing!

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