The inimitable Jeanette O’Hagan kindly invited me to share my writing process on a blog tour. Check out her fantasy writing process here. Today, I give you a glimpse into my humble scriptorium.
1) What am I working on?
Ever the performing plate spinner, I have a few projects on the go at once. (Note the calendars on the pin board. I set targets and track my progress there.) On the blogging front, I am writing weekly posts for my two blogs, Spilling Ink and e-Quipped. My cyber-parenting blog (e-Quipped) is doing well, so I’m focussing on making something of Spilling Ink.
On the fiction front, I have two current projects, one for the Australian market and the other for the US market. Both are middle grade fiction, but they are very different stories. I’m fortunate to have a great agent in the States who’s keen to look at my new stories, so I happily keep churning out material for her. The Aussie story isn’t likely to appeal to her or find a market in the US, and since it won’t leave me alone, I am working on it when I can.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I travelled a lot in my late teens and early twenties, and all those exotic experiences and languages and sights shaped my imagination and vocabulary. Then there’s the fact that I’m a school counsellor. All the work I do with kids in my target market gives me a unique inside advantage. Don’t get me wrong–I’d never use their personal problems or transgress any ethical boundaries, but I can (and do) listen to the way they talk, learn about the things they like and hate, and basically observe how they handle themselves.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I like middle grade fiction because it’s a neat age group. These readers are on the cusp of some crazy changes–physiologically, socially, and emotionally. I like the fact that they are not namby-pamby babies, and nor are they jaded, too-cool-for-school teens. I try to reach that inner core of innocence and wide-eyed wonder while still honouring their intelligence and insights.
4) How does your writing process work?
It depends on the story. Sometimes, I have a thought like this: “I want to write a dog story.” Then I brainstorm the conflict a dog might find himself in. I try to make it worse and worse–a total canine nightmare. And then I (or the dog) find/s a way out of all the trouble.
Other times, I start with a backdrop–a setting. (I think this might be weird.) I wonder what could go wrong in this place, and I populate the place with some unsuspecting imaginary friends, add a dash of chaos, and watch what happens.
I’m really lucky to have a partner who is super supportive of my writing. I might tell him my new idea, and he’ll say, “Cool. How about…?” It’s fun–until he spouts six different ideas in a row, and I just want to jot down and play around with the first one. That’s when I stick my fingers in my ears and yell, “LA-LA-LA!” until he stops.
When I start my story, I catalogue ideas in a Moleskine notebook or on Scrivener. I fertilise the idea with some reading, research and a Pinterest board (like this one for my Aussie fairy tale). I draw maps, charts and timelines. I might articulate a premise at this stage. When I’m ready, I take a stab at a synopsis. I build the synopsis into a chapter outline. I may revert to scene cards at this stage to get the order right.
When the synopsis is right and the outline is tight, I let it sit for a week or two and then I begin writing. I do weeks of work plus a fortnight of fermenting before I type a word.
I try to write one chapter at a time, sticking to my outline. For me, that’s important because I know that story ends well. Sometimes though, the plan in the outline veers off course. If I’m writing to spec (and my agent is waiting for something) I reign myself in and hold the course I’ve charted. If I’m at liberty to explore, I keep going and see what happens. Sometimes this is a bad move because I lose my story and my motivation wanes. But other times, magic happens and I find an exciting thread I hadn’t considered. I’ve learned to pause here and do a quick outline to make sure I can carry the story to a satisfying end.
That is my writing process for the first draft. Then, of course, the work of rewriting begins…
Next Up on the Writing Process Blog Tour…
Next week, I am passing the baton to two Brisbane children’s writers from Write Links, a Brisbane-based writing group for children’s book writers.
Kathryn Allen – www.kathrynallen.com.au.
I have self published two books to date, one children’s picture book and one speculative fiction for adults and have written much, much more. I love reading particularly action/adventure, fantasy, thrillers and write in all of the genres. Occasionally I even finish something! I have one book waiting for a response from an e-book publisher and another two that I am actively working on. My dream is to wake up one morning and realise that all I have to do that day (and all the days after) is write and play with my dogs.
Rebecca Sheraton grew up in sunny Queensland, Australia. She works as a primary school teacher by day and a writer by night. Her passion is seeing children learn to read, find books they love and discover their own writing voice.
Rebecca has a Bachelor of Creative Industries (Media and Communication), Bachelor of Business (Advertising and Marketing) and a Graduate Diploma in Learning and Teaching (Primary).
She loves to play and read with her nephews, which brings out her inner child. Every day she accesses her fun imagination to write.
Watch for Kathryn and Rebecca’s posts on the 24th of March. You can follow along via Twitter, using the hashtag #MyWritingProcess.