I’m following Megan Thomason, fellow Infinite Inkling, in this blog tour about authors’ writing processes. Visit her website here: http://www.meganthomason.com.
What am I working on?
Right now I’m finishing up the last of my edits on No Return, the final novel of the Internal Defense series. I’m looking forward to getting this book out there and wrapping up the series, and yet at the same time, it’s a strange feeling. I’ve been writing about these characters for so long that it’s going to be hard to let go.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Most dystopian novels focus on creating an exotic world very different from our own, and then telling an epic story about fixing that world. I wanted to do something different with the Internal Defense books. As I said when asked to explain the motivations behind my books for the recent launch of Infinite Ink Authors, I wrote this series because I wanted to create a more realistic-feeling dystopia. Most dystopias are larger than life, both in terms of whatever is wrong with the world and in terms of the heroes who are trying to fix it, but there are plenty of real-world governments, both now and in the past, that could be classified as dystopian. I wanted to combine that kind of atmosphere with contemporary American culture, and show what that world would look like from the perspective of someone who has never known anything else – and then turn that ordinary person into a hero.
Why do I write what I do?
That’s a hard question to answer. The simplest explanation is that I write what I do because these are the stories that come to me. But I suppose I love both speculative fiction and the YA category because I’m endlessly curious. I love to explore what makes people who they are, and YA is the perfect place to do that because the characters in YA are often learning about who they are and deciding who they want to become. And I love to explore new possibilities and ideas. I like to ask “Why?” and “What if?” and “What makes things this way?” There’s no better place to do that than in speculative fiction.
As for who all my stories end up being kind of dark (okay, maybe more than kind of)… it sounds strange, but I think it’s actually because I’m a huge idealist. And idealism doesn’t mean as much in a happy world. It’s easy to believe in hope when everything is going well, and it’s easy to do the right thing when your choices are black and white. That’s not what interests me. I like to write about people who do the right thing even when it costs them everything, who believe in a better world when things are at their darkest, who fight for what they believe in even if they know they can’t win.
How does my writing process work?
It’s different for every book, and is always changing as I learn more about the craft of writing and about how my own mind works, but these are the steps I usually go through:
– I come up with an idea.
– I noodle around with the idea for a while, scribbling down notes and getting a sense of the shape of it. This is usually where I figure out what my main character is like, the basic trajectory of the plot, how I want it to end, and what themes the story will focus on. It’s also where I start getting ideas for specific scenes.
– I take the scene ideas I’ve already come up with and fill in the gaps between them, until I have a basic outline that takes the story from beginning to end with no missing pieces.
– I outline each of my scenes in more detail, using a process similar to this.
– I write the first draft. This usually goes pretty quickly – a few weeks on average – because I already know where I’m going.
– After putting the book aside for at least a few days, I reread it and figure out what I need to change. While writing the first draft, it’s hard to see the big picture; this is where I can finally step back and see the book as a whole. I look at how each scene fits into that larger picture, and what I need to do to make all the parts of the story fit together seamlessly. I write notes for each scene – creating a new outline, in a way – laying out what needs to be changed, what needs to be added, and what needs to be removed.
– I start the actual revision. The revision process always takes at least twice as long as the first draft, sometimes much more than that. Not because my first drafts are that messy – I actually write pretty clean first drafts – but because it’s just a slower process. In my first drafts I go down every path I see, following every tangent, especially in terms of what my characters are thinking and feeling. In the revision, I prune away everything that isn’t necessary. I’m ruthless. If something doesn’t serve the story, out it goes. It’s normal for my books to lose at least ten thousand words between the first draft and the second. No Return lost more like fifty thousand.
– After the second draft, the book is basically done. I don’t do five or ten different drafts – I do a single revision, but I make it massive. By the time I’m done, I know I’ve turned the book into the story I want to tell. All that’s left after this is my final line edit and proofreading pass – and then publishing!
Following me next week on the #mywritingprocess tour are:
Katie French, YA dystopian author and fellow Infinite Inkling: http://www.katiefrenchbooks.com
Ariele Sieling, YA sci-fi author: http://www.arielesieling.com
Christopher Kellen, fantasy and science fiction author: http://www.christopherkellen.com