The most difficult part of my writing process is right at the beginning.
Actually, that’s a lie.
Right at the beginning a lot goes on between my ears… Characters tell me funny one-liners, plots start to unfurl into the hazy distance and I get a very rough (and I mean ‘waking up the morning after a hen night’ rough) idea what the book is going to be about.
It’s the angle into the whole story that proves difficult for me, and I procastinate like mad to avoid deciding on a starting point.
But why is it so hard?
I, like all writers, was a reader first. This makes me acutely aware that if my latest offering is worthy enough to be published,then the whole book will likely be judged on the first few paragraphs.
So… no pressure then.
Last night I set a reminder on my phone for this morning.
It said: ‘Start writing book.’
So I did as I was told, and plunged into chapter one.
I started writing an upper middle-grade book last year, but as it progresses I’m beginning to question whether it’s actually YA.
After lots of research on the subject I’ve come to the (slightly uncomfortable) conclusion that it probably sits somewhere in between both camps, but as there is no ‘Somewhere between MG and YA’ shelf in my local bookstore I realise I’m going to have to commit to one or the other.
So I have been asking myself some questions (and you can ask yourself these too if you’re in the same predicament as me)…
1. Word count.
It looks like it’s going to be around 50K words when complete, so more of a YA word count than MG, but factor in that it’s a fantasy, and it may fall a little short…
Complexity of language is probably more YA than MG, but I’m an advocate of encouraging young people to increase their word power, so… meh.
I guess it’s more YA in that key characters change throughout the story, but the themes are trust and false pride, which could be appreciated by older MG readers
No sex or overly bad language, which is suitable for both MG & YA (Tick!)
All in all, I’m leaning towards YA, as I think younger readers who are interested in the premise would read it anyway.
I love to learn, and feel it’s important as a writer to stretch myself, as my imagination is like a muscle which strengthens with exercise.
Which is why my interest was piqued when a friend recently told me about ‘MOOCs’, or ‘Massive Online Open Courses’.
They are offered through universities across the globe in a vast range of languages and subjects, and more importantly they are FREE!
I’ve signed up for a MOOC called ‘The Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe’ offered by the Australian National University. It will take me around 10 weeks to complete and covers astrophysics such as the Big Bang Theory (not the TV show!), redshift, quasars and dark matter.
The maths involved is pretty hairy, but I’ve taken my scientific calculator out and dusted it off, and seem to be keeping up so far.
The subject matter is about as far from my current w.i.p. as you could get (upper MG fantasy) but I love bouncing from one to the other on my computer screen.
So if you love to learn, sign up for a MOOC today — it’s free if you don’t require a certificate, and even if you do, it’s only a nominal fee.
I’m watching Game of Thrones at the moment — I started at the beginning of Season 1 in December and am up to the middle of season 4 now.
It is absolutely riveting — in a rather rude and bloodthirsty way — but has set me thinking about self-set boundaries in writing.
George R.R. Martin obviously has no qualms about writing scenes of graphic torture, but although I can read/watch this knowing it’s fictional, I would feel uneasy writing about it.
It would still be fictional, so what’s my problem?
If I’m honest, I do feel that my writing reflects my soul in a way. I’d worry others would view me as some sort of monster to have such thoughts, and yet I don’t view those who write horror and such in this way, so my feelings must be nonsense!
Yet they are my feelings, and I must be true to them, however silly they may seem — even to myself.
Is there anything YOU couldn’t bear to write?
One positive trait of a comedy writer IMO is the ability to laugh at yourself.
Yes it can be painful and sometimes embarrassing, but appreciating humour — even if it’s ego-bruising — is a valuable character writing tool. How are you going to write about your own protagonist’s catalogue of fails convincingly unless you too have been on the receiving end?
Once I came out of a supermarket carrying a full bag of shopping in each hand.
As I headed for my car I tripped on a kerb, and had to keep the momentum going by running forwards to prevent myself from falling over head first.
After gathering a fair bit of speed I was eventually halted by a 6 foot chain-link fence, into which I face planted.
Immediately I heard children laughing, and looked around expecting a group of kids poking fun at my misfortune. I was somewhat relieved — and amused — to discover that as I’d gone racing past a kiddie’s 50p ride outside the shop, I’d activated a sensor, causing a recording of children giggling to emit from within.
I chuckled to myself all the way home, imagining what I must have looked like to an observer, and marvelling at the coincidence of a machine ridiculing me.
So next time you do something foolish, remember that it’s simply your turn to be on the receiving end of the Universe’s wonderful sense of humour.
Writing can be an anxious process. Your w.i.p rattles around in your head and you desperately want to share some of the good bits, or test out some of the ‘unsure if this will work’ bits, but your muse yells “No! If you speak of me I will send your story crashing to the ground!”
This may sound cray-cray (okay, it so does, now that I’ve written it down) but in my experience that’s exactly what’s happened every time I’ve shared too soon. Other people’s reactions (or lack thereof) have sent doubts pinging round my brain and the emergency ‘Abort Mission’ button has been pressed, leaving me with as much enthusiasm for the project as I have for defrosting my freezer*.
So now when people ask what I’m working on I tend to be vague, or if I’m feeling devilish may make something up on the spot.
Pen Avey is currently writing a dystopian PB featuring robotic gorillas.
*My freezer is currently holding enough ice to build a small igloo.
I’ve been tagged in the ‘My Writing Process’ blog tour by my talented Hen & Ink coop mate, Sarah Towle.
Sarah writes creative nonfiction histories that bring the past to life through first-person storytelling and interactive games. Her concept combines the traditional power of narrative with the latest in technology and represents a new direction in digital publishing.
Sarah’s debut StoryApp, BEWARE MADAME LA GUILLOTINE, A REVOLUTIONARY TOUR OF PARIS, is a bilingual treasure hunt to the French Revolution guided by murderess Charlotte Corday. It launched in July 2011 to raves, especially among teachers, warranting publication in formats used in libraries and schools. It is now an interactive eBook for iPad, and—just last week!—the print edition went live on Amazon. Sarah is currently offering a FREE pdf of the book in exchange for a review. CLICK HERE to request your copy. You can learn more about Sarah at her author website. Also, her burgeoning twin digital imprints, Time Traveler Tours & Tales, are now open for author submissions.
Thanks for tagging me Sarah! Here are my responses to the four questions set:
What am I working on?
I’m currently writing/illustrating a sequel to an as yet unpublished manuscript being subbed by my agent. I know what you’re thinking — ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!’
Thankfully, I have a few more eggs in varying stages of development dotted about.
I’m concentrating my efforts on middle grade and upper-middle grade though, as I love writing for that age group.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I suppose penning scripts for a number of years taught me to write very visually… (although I’m not alone in that).
Maybe I could also say that as they were mainly comedy scripts I honed my humour writing skills… (but again, there are lots of funny books out there).
Perhaps because I’m an author/illustrator writing middle grade… (you get the picture).
Why do I write what I do?
The most important thing for me is to write ‘funny’. Hearing children laugh makes me happy, and if they’re happy they’re not whining.
Seriously though, I have tried to write more heavyweight stuff — I do ‘gritty’ fairly well, but there are others out there who do it far better than me. I think the best thing a writer can do is play to their strengths, and for me that seems to be humour.
How does my writing process work?
I don’t outline.
I stare at walls a lot.
I force myself to switch on the bedside lamp and scrawl something ultimately indecipherable on the back of a magazine with a blunt eye-liner when an idea pops into my head at 2am.
Eventually I have enough scribbled scraps of paper to start writing something solid down.
I buy a cheap, lined A4 notebook and write by hand to begin with. This means I can scribble out/sketch/write notes to myself as I go. It’s messy and chaotic — a bit like me — but I find a freedom writing in this way which I can’t quite capture when seated in front of a computer screen.
Of course, there comes a point where I have to type everything out formally. I use this as an opportunity to do my first proper re-write, too.
Then, when I’ve finished the first draft I rewrite several more times!
Now it’s time for me to hand over the baton to two more writers.
The first is Sara Eastler.
Sara survived childhood with a book in one hand and pen in the other. Today she combines her experience as a teacher, an editor of 12 years, a ghost writer in medicine and science, and a parent to write fiction.
She’s currently working on a discovery-based book app, two picture books, and a middle-grade adventure novel.
Sneak a peek at her work here!
The second writer I’m tagging is Jacqueline Farrell.
Jacqueline has published two historical romances: ‘The Scarlet Queen‘ and ‘Dragonheart‘ and co-authored a Jane Austen spin-off with Amanda Grange ‘Pride and Pyramids: Mr Darcy in Egypt‘ .
Her main interest at the moment is paranormal romance featuring older women as she’s ‘too old to fancy RPatz now’. Her two paranormals ‘Sophronia and the Vampire’ and ‘Maids. Mothers and Crones’ are both available on Amazon.
Find out more about Jacqueline here!
Sara will be taking part in the blog tour on the 4th August and Jacqueline will be participating on the 5th August.
I’m looking forward to reading all about your writing process ladies!