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I was tagged by the fabulous Dana Edwards for this My Writing Process Blog Hop. If you don’t know Dana, why not? Dana writes books for kids and is one of my fellow writers at the Kidliterati blog. You can follow Dana on Twitter @DanaLEdwards.
So, Dana thought you might be interested in how I write. Read on….
What am I working on?
I recently completed a Young Adult story (working title MEANT TO BE) about an American who goes to Israel to join the Israeli army and finds himself on the brink of war during Operation Pillar of Defense. The book weaves separate story lines together – the story of the soldier (and a pretty girl he meets) and the story of the family he left back home – to paint a picture of what military service means for a family. I hope to have revisions completed on the book before the end of the summer.
I’m also working on a middle grade fantasy book titled ANOMALY which is like a kid’s version of the television show Fringe. I have a completed first draft, but my revisions are on hold until I finish revisions on the soldier book.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I write in two genres, Middle Grade (MG) and Young Adult (YA). In both genres I try to draw from personal experiences that are close to my heart and hope the emotions pour onto the page. My soldier story is loosely (very loosely) based on the experiences of my brother who joined the IDF and became a paratrooper. Yes, he jumped out of airplanes! It still boggles my mind that he did that! I’m quite sure my brother got sick of me asking questions about every tiny little detail about his experiences, but I found those tiny little details so fascinating. How loud was it when the air rushed into the plane’s cabin right before you jumped out of the plane? Was it hot? How heavy was the parachute? I couldn’t help my curiosity, but the more questions I asked, the more questions I had. Pretty soon, a story started forming. So I started asking more questions. Then I found more soldiers to interview and I asked them a whole bunch of questions and they had even more fascinating experiences to share. I realized this was an important story to tell.
Why do I write what I do?
Because the voices that are so loud in my head won’t stop talking until I tell their stories.
How does your writing process work?
I know most of my fellow authors outline a story before they write their first word. I wish I could do that. I’ve tried outlining, but I’ve never been successful. My stories float around in my brain for a while until there is a critical mass and the words have no choice but to pour out. I think it’s because of NanoWriMo, but I’m used to writing in one big gush. I sit down and vomit the words. My characters are usually fully formed when I start writing. I know what the beginning of the story is, and I have a good idea of the ending. I let the characters guide the story arc as I type. Sometimes my characters surprise me. Surprise I want to throttle them because they’re not cooperating.
So that’s a little glimpse into my writing universe.
Now please join me in welcoming two amazing writers who will share their writing process with you on Monday 5/26.
Shevi is a writer and illustrator of outrageously funny books for kids. You can find Shevi on Twitter @shevistories. If you’re looking for a good laugh you must check out her books available here
Melinda is a writer of MG and YA books. She was one of my very first CPs and was nice enough not to tell me my writing sucked (because the stuff I shared with Melinda back then really sucked). Melinda can be found on Twitter @ rosefiend. She also has a bunch of chickens.
Everyone knows that writing a book is more than just telling a story.
You know that, right?
The author must also build a world to set the story in. That world may be crystal clear in the author’s mind, but the author must figure out a way to get that world on paper. Now, if an author is setting a story in, say, New York City, that location conjures an image in the reader’s mind. Worldbuilding…not too bad. But, if the setting is a fictional universe, that is a little trickier. An author must unfold that world on paper to help the reader EXPERIENCE the story.
When I set out to write my fantasy novel, TEMPLE FALLS, my first draft focused on the plot and characters. I had a general idea of the world, but, I will admit now, it was severely flawed (it was actually majorly sucktastic). My story takes place in a a pseudo-medieval/biblical setting. And yet, I had one scene where my characters were driving around in a limousine, to which my first beta reader, my oh so patient and much too kind cousin, said, “uh…see…that doesn’t really work for me.” Yep. Duh. So now they ride in a rickshaw. A little better.
I fixed the problem with the limousine, but other betas kept pointing me to other problems. What is the technology of my world? Do they have electricity? If not, then how could they have light poles? Do they have phones? How are they communicating?Do they really eat cottage cheese? My betas urged me to think about these points.
This is my world, I can build it however I damn well please.
But so many people kept saying the same thing. I realized my resistance was just me being lazy. If I wanted to tell my story, I needed to think about these things and more. And to my surprise, worldbuilding has been really fun!
One of my characters is a foreman at a build site. My draft had him wearing a whistle around his neck. So I got to researching about medieval whistles. Would my world really have a whistle? Turns out, the whistle is an ancient instrument, apparently originating in ancient China 5000 years ago, making its way to Europe in the 11th Century. These whistles were made out of bird bone or wood.
There were various styles and manners of whistles in the ancient world, but the whistle I decided to build into my story was based on something like this:
My characters now carry torches instead of relying on electricity. They drink mead instead of coffee, and eat porridge instead of finger sandwiches (I know…cringe…what was I thinking???) And mayonnaise is gone too (welcome curdled butter…mmmmmm).
Worldbuilding is crazy scary. It really is. But so important! When worldbuilding is done well, it seeps into the characters and makes the story come alive. Think about a book like HARRY POTTER and the wizarding universe JK Rowling created. Hogwarts was imaginary, and yet, we as readers lived it.
I’m so glad I finally admitted I had a problem in my book. Once I started playing with my world, it was so much fun and made me fall in love with my book all over again.
It’s November. This is where I was supposed to be rocking my word count as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I spent the month of October obsessing over a new novel idea, learning my characters, itching to blitz through my first draft as part of a month of writing frenzy.
And then Hurricane Sandy hit.
I never could have imagined that my home on the South Shore of Long Island would have been hit so hard. But on the night of the storm, when the surge came in, there was nothing I can do other than watch in horror as a tidal wave of sea water ripped down my street. The water level continued to rise during high tide, eventually rising high enough to reach my front door, back door, garage…..
I consider myself very lucky. So many friends and family fared a lot worse than us. At least we still have a home (without power). At least my children slept safely on the top floor of my house during the surge, never experiencing the scary moments first hand.
This is a picture of the front of our house after some of the cleanup. Sanitation had already picked up several other loads of rubbish. Very depressing to come home to.
But the power never came back. Today is November 9th and I still have no power. I will save my LIPA rant for another blog post, but let me just say LIPA should be ashamed of themselves.
I tried to write for Nano. I really did. My kids and I left for a few days to PA to escape our cold, powerless house and I had images of me sitting by the fireplace clacking away on my new book. But the words just didn’t come. All I could think about was my husband stuck at home in a cold, wet house cleaning up the mess. My neighbors in the Rockaways and my hometown of Staten Island trying to pick up the pieces. The gas shortages. All this killed my muse.
So…Nano… I have failed. After successfully completing 2 years of Nano, this year will not be a win for me. I blame that bitch Sandy. I blame LIPA. But I do not blame myself. Not this time. There are just too many other priorities at the moment. Like keeping my house warm. Like trying to entertain my 3 children when it gets dark and they get scared. Like trying to figure out if I have enough gas to get my children to school.
NanoWriMo next year.
Recently, I decided to take my chances and enter a few online contests. My real motivation in entering was to get feedback on my query/pitch and test the waters a bit.
I participated in #PitMad, a twitter pitch-fest. Basically, you have 140 characters (less actually because you need to include the hashtag) to pitch your novel to lurking agents. Here is the pitch that won me a “favorite” from literary agent Brittany Howard of Corvisiero Agency:
Nara, 14 yo banished princess, must work with her nemesis, a mere commoner, to decipher the Gods’ clues and end the plagues (MG) #PitMad
I also entered the Miss Snark’s First Victim Catch a Teen Eye contest and was an honorable mention. You can find the full list of winners here (look for TEMPLE FALLS)
Lastly, I entered Krista Van Dolzer’s Agent Inbox contest and came in 4th place! This one I am particularly proud of because the other entries were so strong. My win earned me a partial request from agent Victoria Marini, of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency. Here is a link to the announcement:
So I’m pretty excited about the contests so far. Definitely making good progress. But even more exciting is that I have several partial and full manuscript requests out there with some DREAM AGENTS. Fingers and toes crossed!
I was going to write a blog post about this, but I couldn’t have articulated it any better.
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- National Novel Writing Month National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.