The Writing Process: A self-interview (or why it took me six weeks to write this post)
My good friend Sarah Stevenson* invited me to participate in this writing process blog tour a while back.
Actually, it was a month ago.
Wait, it was actually about six weeks ago.
So, yeah that's my writing process in a nutshell--I guess we're done here, right? Kidding. But procrastination is a big part of it, obviously.
I'm writing this post now (finally) from San Jose where I'm attending BlogHer 14, a social media conference dedicated to all things blogging, networking, and writing. Seems like as good a time as any to finally tackle this.
The writing process is a mysterious one. As Sarah wrote in her post, "writing is often an isolated, isolating activity, and that tends to make us writers feel like we're weirdos alone in our self-imposed struggles."
This applies, largely, whether I'm writing for work, working on my book or poetry, or tackling a blog post. Before I started blogging regularly again I'd tricked myself into thinking I'd blog several times a week but truth is it takes me forever to even write a post sometimes because I agonize over words, phrases, the order of information and thoughts.
I'm not saying my blog posts read as if they're superbly crafted (they do not), just that sometimes it's very, very difficult to commit them to the Internet. (The exception to this, of course, occurred when I took part in the BlogHer writing challenge, which forced me to post every day for a month).
Anyway, the degree of anxiety, neurosis and weirdness may shift depending on the focus, but those components are mostly always there.
On that note:
1. WHAT AM I WORKING ON?
I'm always writing something. That's what I do for a living. Well, I'm also an editor so often this means I only have time for really short pieces. But sometimes I knock out longer articles; occasionally I even write a 3,000-word cover story. In the last couple of years I've also made a concerted effort to work on a book. It's been both a rewarding and a frustrating process. After all it's been nearly 10 years (!) since I received my MFA in Creative Writing--you'd think I'd have coughed up a book by now. I do have a contemporary lit book that I'd like to return to one day but in the last five years I've been working on two books. Both are young adult novels. One is a collaboration with a friend but for various reasons it's been on hold for the last year and a half.
I started the other book about four years ago and have been writing it on and off with more seriousness for the last two years. I've set a goal to finish the draft by the end of summer (I'm about three or four chapters out. I think. I mean, that could easily change) and another goal to do at least one serious write-through revision by the end of the year.
The book is called Kissyface but that's just a working title at this point. It's a coming of age story about a 17-year-old girl who feels stuck in childhood, abandoned by her parents and completely lost in life.
This is really simplifying the story of course, but ultimately that's what it's about, at least in part. The scope and tone of the book have changed so dramatically that sometimes I hardly recognize it anymore. This is mostly a good thing. In the last year or so I've worked hard to focus the story and make it something that I would want to read. That last part is key. Initially this story started out as a screenplay in the style of an 80s-era teen movie--lighthearted, funny, etc. Now as I continue to shape it into a book, it's become more serious, more melancholy, a bit grittier in places.
2. HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?
Hmmm, good question. When I think of contemporary YA lit that I like--stuff like Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park or Melina Marchetta's Jellicoe Road, I think of books that stay with me for a long, long time. Books that make me cry or talk out loud to myself. When I finished Eleanor & Park I literally gasped at the last line. And cried a little.
Jellicoe Road was, at first, hard to get into it but I pushed through and was rewarded with an emotionally complex book that haunted me so much I had to reread it. I want to reread it again because I still can't really pinpoint just how it got under my skin.