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My Writing Process in a Shell of a Nut

toddOne of the best things about having writerly friends, is celebrating with them when they cross the finish line.  One of my talented friends in such a position is LOUISE GALVESTON, author of By the Grace of Todd.

 

Louise tagged me in the #myworkprocess blog thinga-do. Here’s her post on her work and how she produces it, and below, mine.

 

 

A. What am I working on?

Currently, I’m revising a perky little YA manuscript that involves cellular memory, serial killing and sex. And also, bad words.  Although this story is quite dark, it’s a lot of fun for me. It’s set in my home state of Texas, and recreating the rhythm of Texan speech patterns, as well as idioms peculiar to the state, is like wrapping myself in a warm serape.

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B. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write books for guys that girls like to read too. If it’s a subject that’s usually discussed in whispers, I wave it like bunting on the Fourth of July. My stories are gritty and realistic, but always with a small twist that makes the world skew a bit toward the weird.

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 C. Why do I write what I do?

You’d have to ask my psychiatrist.

D. How does your writing process work?

I believe in vomiting out your first draft–just GET IT DOWN.  As I write,  characters’ names change,  the plot careens wildly and I might try on different tenses and  points of view. DOESN’T MATTER. Then, I choose which tense and point of view I like, and rewrite for plot and story elements. Then a third draft concentrating on character, setting and cleaning up plot holes. Then a last pass to clean up anything I missed. I. Am. Thorough.

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NEXT WEEK, MAY 5TH (may already) GO SEE MY PALS’ POSTS ON THIS VERY SUBJECT:

Heather Trent Beers’ blog, I’M JUST SAYIN’:

Heather is my adorable friend who writes articles for magazines and periodicals, local and national, for kids and parents. She also writes charming picture books, as well as edits for cash money. We like to travel together under aliases.   http://heathertrentbeers.blogspot.com/

Tessa Elwood’s blog, INK & ANGST:

Tessa is my cool friend who writes YA novels and designs websites and also is a photographer extraordinaire. This gal’s got her fingers in so many pies *CORN ALERT CORN ALERT* we call her Marie Callendar. She also lets me post on her blog sometimes. Is that a pal, or what? http://inkandangst.com/

Heather Ayris Burnell’s blog, FROLICKING THROUGH CYBERSPACE:

Heather is my cyberfriend. We met on Twitter and have yet to coordinate a meeting IRL. BUT I HAVE FAITH. She’s lives on a mountain and raises things–crops, critters and kids. And writes picture books, as well as a YA here and there. I love her madly, and am so curious to get together in person so I can hear her voice. I imagine it is smooth as a lamb’s ear and fresh as goat’s milk.  http://frolickingthroughcyberspace.blogspot.com/

 

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details, details

I don’t think I’ll ever write a 100,000 word manuscript.

First of all, my attention span isn’t that long.  Also, I have been known to search for just the “right word” for 45 minutes.  You don’t pound out 100K words doing that.  But the biggest reason is…

I’m just not that into detail.

I can’t spend three pages setting a scene.  Which makes me a perfect kidlit writer, of course.  Only adult market writers can get away with crap like that.  The one thing that would bore me more than reading such a thing is writing it.

And I don’t want to describe what my characters look like down to the last wart on Aunt Junie May’s left pinkie toe.  Sorry.  Most of the time, I won’t even tell you what color their hair is.  Or their eyes.  Not unless it’s important to the characterization or the story.

And the house might be “needing paint”  or it might come “from family money”, but I’m not going to furnish the blueprints and color swatches.

Because if you’re reading my story, I’m going to make you work.

When you pick up my book, you and I enter into an agreement.  I will do my best to entertain you, and you will do your darnedest to be entertained.  I ply my craft, you apply your imagination.

You, the reader, get to create too.

And that, my fellow writers, is the reason that there will always be books.

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Rip Me A New One #1

Critique Group.

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It is tremendously easier–and faster–to evolve as a writer with a critique group behind you.  (Or around your neck.  Depending on your planetary federation.)  I improved my craft so much between the first chapter of my novel and the last that–well, I felt I had to issue an apology on our listserv for what I’d put my little buddies through.

The Valuable Aspect of Critique Groups #1 that I’ll blog my fingers stubby over today is…

THE READING OF THE MANUSCRIPT

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You can read your own words out loud to the mice in your garret all you want, but YOU know what they’re supposed to mean, and you can put in the inflections so they twist the right way.  If you want to see how the reader is going to understand your words, you’ve got to have a stranger (gasp!) put her profane tongue all over them. (Ooooh, yeah.  I AM a YA writer.)

For this exercise, a cold reading is best.  Where the practiced reader stumbles is usually an awkward piece of writing: too many prepositions, jumbled syntax,  misused words, poor punctuation, etc.  Perhaps characters’ names are cumbersome or too similar.

When you are one step removed, you may hear words repeated within mere sentences of each other.  Or even that the “blooming flowers bloomed under Judy Blume’s window”.

Dialogue that sounded snappy on paper may sound insipid hanging in the air:

“I say, Boopsie, could you fetch me that ping-pong ball?”

“What-what?  This one?  Under the yum-yum tree?”

“Right-oh!”

You’ve learned at least a day’s worth of revisions, just by listening to someone read your MS out loud.

God help you when the REAL critique begins.

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