Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Writing Process - Blog Tour

So guys, Mark O’ Brien, a stupidly funny Twitter friend who once made me walk into tree branches while replying to a tweet from him, tagged me in the My Writing Process blog tour.
Now you shall learn all my secrets to…um…not being published as of yet.

What am I working on?

Two things. I just finished a sprinted-through, book-in-a-week rewrite of one of the first WIPS I ever considered salvageable. Despite this “salvageable” status, the book defies owning up to its own awesomeness, and has instead lingered in varying states of blah since 2009, when I wrote the rough draft at around age 15.
I love this book—these characters—with my heart and soul, but it’s not high on my priority list in terms of “trying to query” it, because it happens to be a spin on portal fantasy (ex. Narnia) which is notoriously hard to sell.

Working Title: Spider Silk -- Five years after helping dethrone an evil king in another world, David Archer has been thought crazy for so long he’s starting to believe it, until his former worst enemy—a young assassin with spider-powers—shows up and drags him back to the Toppling Kingdom where everything has fallen apart in his absence, or maybe because of his prior actions. Former friends are now enemies, former enemies are now allies, and nothing is as simple as it seemed when he was younger.

With the newest (better, but merh) draft of that out of the way, my focus is returning to earnest revision of the WIP I finished last week with 30k words in three days.

Working Title: Shameless, but oft-referred to on Twitter as #fairyprisonbook

Warden Smith III is trapped by his family legacy, as caged in as any of the blood-thirsty fae that inhabit the abandoned prison they’ve guarded for three generations. No one else can do the work because almost no one else can see the fae. Those that can have never felt guilt: they’re either naïve enough to believe themselves innocent or psychopathic enough not to care about the consequences of their actions. Being a warden has meant training himself out of a conscience his entire life, giving up a future as anything but a warden, until one day Warden is faced with a screw-up he can’t talk himself out of. He loses his Sight, along with the faerie who takes over Warden’s temporary coworker and escapes. Searching blindly, alone and feeling guilty for the first time ever, Warden’s only chance at preserving his future is to right his wrong and regain his Sight, or figure out what a new future would look like.

(If you have any thoughts on these rough plot blurbs, feel free to share!)

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
SPIDER SILK differs from other portal fantasies in that it kind of turns that whole trope on its head, exploring potential repercussions of some of the childhood stories we know and love…Were the heroic kids who stumbled into other worlds and saved them actually necessary, and what if they made things worse? I love portal fantasies, so it was interesting to come up with a fresh take on them and follow that kind of plot set-up farther than usual in-story events take them. I’d like to think my spin on portal fantasy is unique enough to make an agent take a second look, but…*shrug*

I was telling my sister about SHAMELESS last night, and she at least said that the moral/ethics questions I was exploring with it sounded interesting, not like things she’d seen in other novels. So that, I suppose. I’ve worked on it kind of focusing less on what characters have done, and more on how they feel about what they’ve done. Two extremes show up: feeling guilty about nothing or everything, and it’s a topic I got really interested in analyzing through the process of writing it.

Just in general, I write mostly YA fantasy (some scifi), but I like to try and come at the story from an angle you wouldn’t expect. I know that might be everyone’s goal at the core of things, but… *flail*

Why do I write what I do?

I went to a Maggie Stiefvater signing last night (Pics and fangirling next week, probably!) and maybe I’m just still on a high from that, but I think I might like to steal something she said in the middle of a longer, hilarious spiel about how she came to write Sinner (I think).

She mentioned that whenever she has a question, she writes a book to answer it.

And I think that sums up a lot of my motivation, too.

Like, for SPIDER SILK, I started thinking about what happened afterward. How could someone go back to a normal life after kind of peaking when they were like 12 and stumbled into something way bigger than themselves. What issues would they never have recognized at the time?

If I’m not intentional about seeking out more answers/information, I have a bad habit of accepting the simplistic, summed up view of things, often the view that I grew up with. My default concepts of right and wrong and life in general are sometimes the things I was told growing up, just because I haven’t sought out any other answers. Maybe those defaults are fine, maybe they’re not, but more and more I’ve been feeling that the looking is important.

Kind of similarly, I can often feel guilty about stupid things that aren’t really my fault and are totally not a big deal. So, for SHAMELESS, I wanted to poke at what it would be like to go through life not feeling any guilt, and what would it take to maintain that.

I also write about things that just plain interest me. Stuff I think is cool, like assassins with spider powers, plant mages with plagues, talking gargoyles and a boy who can speak to pigeons, faeries no one else can see in the middle of a creepy old prison in the middle of nowhere. If an idea comes to me, I can’t help but get excited about it.

Sometimes these ideas spring out of subjects I love in other books I’ve read, thinking, “Okay, how would I do this? How could I make this mine? What if this completely different thing happened?” Sometimes they just pop out of things I come across in my everyday life—which is impressive because my everyday life is in Iowa, where there are not so many cool things to come across in the first place.

How does my writing process work?

Confession time. There are two main reasons why I have not queried yet:
1) I have super high standards for myself.
2) I have written/plotted at least 15 different novels during the course of my life, 8 of them deemed “salvageable,” and loving all eight of those means that none of them have been revised to meet those standards I mentioned above.
I’m really bad about leaping on to the next idea and sprinting through drafts for NaNoWriMo and book-in-a-week and my own satisfaction.
This is fabulous for my overall prolificacy.
And super bad for getting those drafts query-ready.
I’m getting better at throwing myself into revisions, and (I think) my more recent sprinted-through drafts are improving over their predecessors at a base level. That said, I’m still a long way from where I want to be, and lately I’ve been devouring posts on scene structure and craft knowledge, trying to get better in that respect.
As far as drafting goes, my process is this.

  1. ·         Writing anywhere, but most often my dorm room or my parents’ living room couch.
  2. ·         Headphones in, instrumental music turned up (film scores are my lifeblood). I make lyric-y novel playlists but cannot write to them without getting distracted by the perfect lyrics.
  3. ·         Writing fast, often wordsprinting with other people because I take pride in beating their pitiful wordcounts beneath my feet like a monstrous giantess.
  4. ·         Using placeholders, as I talked about briefly in this post, which ties in with the reasons I have not queried yet.
  5. ·         Making mental notes on what sucks as I’m writing, then manifest those notes in the physical world, to be reviewed before my next rewrite/revision.
  6. ·         Juggling all 8+ stories I’m still hoping to revise to awesomeness in my head, all at once, in my subconscious, every day. This is a thing that I am good at. I went through the notes on my cell phone a few days ago and it was kind of humorous seeing detailed plot and character notes about like four novels over the course of three days. My brain cycles through all these stories and fills in perfect plot fixes like three years later. I don’t even know.

As far as more revision goes...
I’ll let you know once I find a system that gets me past the point of drafting.

Next week on the blog tour:

KT Simpson resides in the very-not-made-up city of Kalamazoo, where she studies Creative Writing at Western Michigan University. When she’s not working on papers or working for the university, she can be seen in local coffee shops working on young adult novels. They might be about feral children or they could be about magic schools. KT also enjoys drawing/painting, dancing, baking, and a whole assortment of music, films, and television. She can be found far too often on her Twitter and neglecting her blog.

Julie is a book blogger, freelance editor, college student, and crazy cat lady. And sometimes she's a writer. Her first novel was written when she was nine about twin 14-year-olds coming to America with the Pilgrims. They both got married and had quadruplets because Julie couldn't decide on names. Her writing has probably improved since then. You can find her at or on twitter @JulieHeartBooks

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