The Writing Process Blog Hop
I’ve been tagged by Dianne Touchell (Creepy and Maud 2012), one of the most authentic authors writing for young adults today. Di will be publishing her new YA novel with Allen & Unwin in 2015 and you can read about her writing process here.
I’ve also been tagged by Rosanne Hawke (Marrying Ameera, Shahana, Mountain Wolf and more) who writes beautiful novels about brave kids from different cultures. Rosanne’s answers to these questions can be found on her website.
What am I working on?
2013 was a complicated year and I took a few wrong turns. My next contemporary YA novel (a love story set in a small town) is slowly edging closer to a final draft. The good news is I’ve stopped trying to steer this baby and it’s now at the broken, messy, no-turning-back stage (which is, conversely, where it finds focus). The other good news is: the ideas keep coming. I have a tendency to store too many stories in my head at once and it can get noisy in there, so I purged by outlining a middle grade novel I’ve had buzzing around for a while. I work on this when I’m stuck or disillusioned with the others (which can happen often, so it’s taking shape rather quickly) and it’s probably the most challenging format I’ve ever attempted. And a new, exciting project has turned up unexpectedly. I’m trying to push it aside for the time being.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Tough question. I think most writing is unique in some way, particularly novel-length works. It’s much harder to sustain fakery or a forced style over a longer work than it is to give in to your own voice. My work is different simply because it’s mine, and that goes for every other writer, too.
In terms of style and subject, I’m borrowing someone else’s phrase to describe my books: ‘Australian YA grunge with a streak of magical realism’. I like that description.
On voice: some say my writing is lyrical and others describe it as sharp and bleak. I’ve read (in the same review) that it’s both ‘pared back’ and ‘lushly overwritten’. Readers’ opinions seem divided—maybe it can have all of these elements. I don’t know what it is. I’ve never been an objective reader of my own work.
Why do I write what I do?
I write what I do because it’s easier. I don’t mean that writing for young adults is easier (I find all kinds of writing difficult), just that, when I’m dreaming about characters, I find it natural to slip into a young adult’s viewpoint. I usually discover an interest and intensity that’s lacking from any other angle. Even when I’m writing for adults I wonder what the teens are thinking. The young adult perspective seems limitless—as if I don’t have to make the story fit any particular box—and that’s an immense freedom at the beginning (which is the hardest part for me).
How does my writing process work?
I still haven’t really settled into a process. On Mondays and Thursdays I have my best chance of a decent stretch for writing and the rest is stolen minutes. Night-writing is better for emotional scenes but I’m far more productive in structure, plot and bridging during the day. My most colourful thinking time seems to happen an hour before sleep and during the hour after waking. Usually I won’t start writing until I’ve played through countless rehearsals in my mind and the characters come first, always, even when they mess with my plans. It’s rare that the final story bears any resemblance to the original idea and I’m cagey about showing anything to anyone before the whole story is down, or it kills the music. I have one working file and anything I delete is gone forever (I’m distracted by leftovers—I figure if I hated a sentence once, I’ll hate it always). Sometimes I won’t write a single word for weeks (I have no sound advice for this, other than to wait).
I suppose all of this is a kind of process, albeit a flaky one.
I’ve tagged the lovely Trinity Doyle, YA writer, reader and co-presenter of the Ladies of YA podcasts. Trinity Doyle’s answers are here. Trinity Doyle. (I love saying that. Such a brilliant writer-name and it’s not even a pseudonym.) Trinity is a gorgeous, assured and unforgettable new voice and she’s going to write her name in the sky.
Somebody wise once said, ‘I know I can write. I just have to figure out how to feed myself while I do it.’ Something like that. I think it was Cormac McCarthy. Anyway, it seems I can write without worrying about how to feed myself for a few more months. Yes, that was a clumsy segueway into some self-back-slapping—All I Ever Wanted won the Adelaide Festival Award for Young Adult Fiction a couple of weeks ago.
To top off that wonderful moment, I got to hang out with some lovely writers, some of whom have been scooping up awards like seagulls at a burley-fest. I loved that several writers admitted that their knees still knocked and they were lost for words and some even felt sick before an appearance. I feel bad, but I needed to hear it because I suffer all those symptoms plus I have a complexion that lights up like a slapped arse. Okay, enough bad similes.
I was especially thrilled to be shortlisted with a group of YA authors whose books graced my shelves many years before my own book was published, and some amazing South Aussie writers won awards: Rosanne Hawke, the Children’s Literature Award for Taj and the Great Camel Trek; Janeen Brian, the Carclew Fellowship; Margaret Merrilees, the Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript Award; Nicki Bloom, the Jill Blewett Playwright’s Award and the Barbara Hanrahan Fellowship.
Congratulations to the organisers of Writers’ Week and to all the writers who emerged, blinking, into that perfect week of sunshine. Back to your garrets, please.