Texas writer and illustrator Mark Mitchell, known for his wonderful watercolors and many picture books, invited me to join this writing process blog tour. I’ve been lucky to be part of his online class Make your Splashes – Make your Marks. Mark wrote about his own process on his blog.
I’m also fascinated by the history of this blog tour, which spans continents, so I traced my invitation back a few links. Akiko White, the winner of the 2014 Tomie dePaola award for her illustrations made out of cake (yes, they’re awesome and delicious), tagged Mark. And she had been tagged by Australian award-winning author Christopher Cheng, who put together the wonderful PAL slide show for SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and I appreciated the opportunity to participate in that.
Now after that lengthy introduction, I’m ready to answer the questions they posed:
1.) What are you working on?
At the moment, I’m finishing two books to turn in to editors this week. I’m working on the final chapters of Grace Avenged, Book 4 in the WANTED series, which will be coming out in December 2014 in the UK. Book 1, Grace and the Guiltless, released in February in the UK. (Books 3 and 4 will be coming out there in May and August.) The series will also release in the US with different covers beginning in August under Capstone’s new Switch Press imprint.
I’m also editing a picture book to turn in to my agent as well as developing a chapter book series while taking a class with Hillary Homzie and Mira Reisberg. And Alexis Moore and I are working on two more nonfiction books together along with a picture books series.
Of course, all these projects are only the tip of the iceberg. I also have a quite a few other projects in various stages of completion and many more submerged underwater in my subconscious. And that doesn’t count all the books I’m editing for others.
2.) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I write in so many different genres that it’s hard to compare my work to others’. I have picture books (fiction and nonfiction), chapter books, middle grade novels, YA novels and nonfiction, NA nonfiction, adult nonfiction and fiction, along with short stories and articles for both children and adults. I’ve also had a few illustration projects and hope to do more of those. I’m in my 3rd year in Hollins University’s Picture Book Writing & Illustrating MFA.
3.) Why do I write what I do?
The main reason I write is because I love to learn and explore new things. I get excited about sharing my knowledge with others, and writing is a wonderful way to do that. When I come across a new idea, I ask: Who would be interested in this? The answer is almost always a different age group, which is why I’ve written for so many age levels.
I also believe that writing is a form of self-discovery; it helps us understand not only ourselves, but also others. It keeps us from taking things for granted, teaches us to look beneath the surface, and reveals the beauty in everything.
Writing also keeps alive the wonder and awe of childhood. To me, there’s something magical about creating new worlds and peopling them with characters I’ve imagined. Children still believe in that magic, so I’m most drawn to writing for them.
4.) How does my writing (or writing with pictures/illustrating) process work?
I used to wait for the muse to strike, but now I’ve learned that if you sit down expecting to write, the words will come. With all my deadlines (5 books in the past 7 months), I don’t have the luxury of waiting for words to come, so right before I go to bed, I read over the notes of what I plan to write the next day or I pose a problem if I’m not sure what should come next. Then I go to sleep and let my mind arrange the words or solve the problem. When I wake up, I write. My best writing is usually done right after waking or late at night (from 1-3 a.m. is my sweet spot).
I’ve trained myself that the minute I sit down to write, my mind is ready. I don’t need rituals or to spend time agonizing over what I should write, I just do it. Not everything that goes down on the page is good writing, but you can’t revise what isn’t there.
I’m halfway between a pantser and a plotter. I need more of an outline for nonfiction, but when I write fiction, my process almost always begins with a vision of a story opening and a dramatic ending. I usually also see key scenes in my head. I jot them down or just remember them. I use those as mile markers along the way. Then when I write, I record whatever scene is most vivid in my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever written a book linearly. I write bits and pieces here and there.
Once I have all the key scenes down, I work on tying them together. I usually dread this part of the process because I always go in thinking I’ll have to put in boring transitions, but almost always my characters surprise me by doing something unexpected, so it ends up being more fun than I anticipated.
Another important piece of my process is running my work by my critique groups. I find letting others read my work and offer their opinions and suggestions greatly improves anything I write.
I’ve tagged three awesome writers who will share their processes on their blogs next Monday:
Joan Holub‘s new trucky, constructiony picture book is Mighty Dads (illustrated by James Dean, creator of Pete the Cat). Her picture book Little Red Writing (illustrated by Melissa Sweet) garnered 3 starred reviews and spots on many Best Of lists. She co-authors 3 series with Suzanne Williams: Goddess Girls, Grimmtastic Girls, and Heroes In Training. Find out more about Joan and all her other fantastic books at her website and on Facebook and Twitter.
Judith Tewes resides in small town Alberta and is a commercial writer writing under several pen names. MY SOON-TO-BE SEX LIFE launches with Bloomsbury Spark in June. As Judith Graves she has a recent release cowritten with Dawn Dalton, KILLER’S INSTINCT, a monster-hunter tale with loads of action.
Army wife, author, and new mom Tracy E. Banghart has an MA in Publishing and an obsession with cupcakes. She has written and published three novels for young adults; her latest, SHATTERED VEIL, a sci-fi adventure, just received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and 4.5 stars from IndieReader.