There’s a Pyramid Scheme in Progress! No one seems to know who kick started this movement to get authors sharing the how and whys of “Writing Process,” but it’s spreading like kudzu as week after week, writer by writer, we’re asking and answering 4 seemingly-simple-but-surprisingly-complex questions about how we Do This Thing We Do, then tagging others to answer next. I’m having an inspired time learning from everyone else, most recently fellow VCFA alum and picture book author chum, Sarah Sullivan, who tagged me.
Sarah proved her talents stretched beyond picture books with her acclaimed debut novel, All That's Missing so be sure to READ SARAH’s POST.
WAIT! STOP! Before you go there, here’s mine:
What am I currently working on?
4 picture books/3 blog posts/2 chapter books/and . . . A novel started in the 90’s! (The sale from which—if it’s ever finished—might buy me that partridge and the pear tree!) That’s no fib. I always work several projects concurrently—after I have a completed draft. Each is in a different stage of the writing process. Of the 4 picture books: 2 are ugly drafts. I mean Ugly! So bluck it hurts to read them; 1 is in the Idea Stage, snippets of possibilities, lists of words, thoughts about characters (almost ready to draft); the last is a completed manuscript that’s in the scariest phase of all, I’m in LOVE! (And no, I’m not going to tell you what it’s about…) So I’m ignoring it. Giving it the cold shoulder for a few weeks. After the new wears off, I’ll reread the manuscript—without the rose tinted glasses.
Additionally, I like to work on both fiction and non-fiction at the same time,--usually children's fiction in the morning, while my nightime insights are still fresh; adult non-fiction when I'm stuck or tired (hence my blog and former column in NOW! Jakarta).
About that novel . . . It's WHOLE different story! I have a completed draft but. . . Truth Time: I’m scared to touch it! Afraid I don’t have what it takes to revise it, I ignore it (which is not the same as “letting it chill”). But that novel haunts me. . . I’m toying with taking a Whole Novel Revision Class by way of forcing me to confront my demons.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Many picture books face-out on bookstore shelves are Concept Books featuring what I call the Back of the Classroom characters: loud, bold, in-your-face types, who holler what they want.
My picture book are Storybooks featuring Middle of the Classroom Smart with Huge Heart, characters, the kids who keep their heads down and try hard--super hard--while occasionally make snide comments out the corner of their mouths. In short, regular kids with problems to solve:
Why do I write what I write?
Because I am obsessed with Picture Books—capital P; capital B—and I’m not an illustrator.
Let’s face it, people—especially kids—pluck a picture book off a shelf because they’re attracted to its cover. They thumb through looking at the pictures, first. Then, if the art peaks their interest, they’ll get around to my part—the words. And in picture books, they’re not many of them.
In a college Communications class we studied how, at one time, movie industry marketers tried splicing images of hot butter popcorn into the movies to subliminally influence movie goers to buy more popcorn. That’s exactly what I do.
Instead of images of popcorn, I use words to put ideas in the illustrator's head. I guess that makes me sort of an Illustrator Whisper. Besides, nobody loves a book the way a pre-reading child loves a book. I want the book that kid hugs and asks for again and again to be mine.
How does my individual writing process work?
I write the way I drive. (Danger, Will Robinson!) Seriously,I have to whose driving, where the story is going to start & where it's going to end before I can begin. So I fiddle around, making lists, thinking, reading, noodling until I know. Once I know that, I set my sights for a specific ending, the way a tourist in Paris might aim for the Eiffel Tower, and let it rip. I'll write a complete draft straight through. It may take some time--If I'm working on a picture book, I'll finish the draft in one sitting; if it's a longer piece, it may take weeks or months. I’ll just keep winding my way along, sometimes doubling back, U-turning, occasionally crashing, until I reach that end. That's all from me...
Up Next on the Blog Tour:
A couple of smart, fresh & sassy VCFA Classmates & Unreliable Narrators:
Sarah Wones Tomp, whose debut YA novel, My Best Everything--about moonshine and falling in love and breaking rules (and hearts)—is coming March 2015 (Little Brown). What’s more: her picture book, Red, White and Blue Good-bye, face-out on my shelf of favorites is a must for every child of a soldier. Sarah lives, moms, writes, teaches and blogs in San Diego, CA. Please visit her at www.sarahtomp.com
Tamara Ellis Smith, whose debut middle grade novel, Marble Boys—the story of two boys who have experienced death and Hurricane Katrina, and how the world pushes them together to find healing—is coming August 2015 (Schwartz and Wade). Tam lives in a small Vermont town with an amazing bakery where she sits and writes, edits, reviews, blogs, mothers, runs and when called upon, doulas. Here is Tam’s website: www.tamaraellissmith.com
Click on SUBSCRIBE if you'd like to receive email notification when entries are posted on Kelly's Fishbowl.