My Writing: The What, How, and Why

Back in the spring, I participated in a blog hop to answer four questions about my writing. Last week, a fellow writer, Michael Gunter, asked me if I would like to participate again. Since some of my answers have changed, I decided why not? So here we go!

1) What am I working on? 

As most of you know, I’ve been elbow deep in revisions for my YA manuscript. This is an old project I optioned in 2010 to a production studio on the Paramount Studio lot. It’s been sitting on my shelf for over a year untouched, and last fall, during NaNoWriMo, I realized it was time revamp it. COMPLETELY! I kept the concept and two main characters and incinerated the rest.

I finished my brand spankin’ new first draft in the spring, and am now swimming in revisions. My progress has been on the slower side, but the work I’m creating feels strong, so I’m hoping my third draft won’t be such a pain (fingers crossed). At this point, I’m hoping to have a finalized version by the fall. Then it’s query time! Yay…ugh. 😉

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, that pretty much sums it up!

When I write, I have one main goal: to think way outside the box…which can be tough in the category I like to write for: Young Adult. However, no matter how tempting it might be, I refuse to hop on trends (vampires, dystopia, angels, etc.). When a genre/topic becomes hot, I avoid it like the plague. Why? Because by the time I write a book about it, it’ll be old news. Agents won’t want it, publishers won’t want it, and a lot of readers won’t want it, and that equals wasted time and a worthless manuscript.

So, if an idea isn’t fresh, different, and “Oooh, that’s cool!”, then I won’t pursue it.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Easy. A story demands me to tell it.

Okay, I’ll explain. My main focus is young adult (suspense, horror, fantasy, drama). However, I don’t let that focus constrict me. If a story wants me to tell it, I will. In fact, I rarely sit around and brainstorm ideas. They come to me at the most random of times (on a jog, in the shower, at the grocery store, while working on a different project). Some ideas I explore immediately; others I write down for a later time. All of them, however, haunt me. They’re like little whispers begging me to pay attention to them and translate them onto paper…Unfortunately, I’m not a machine, so I’m only able to address one at a time. So, why do I choose the one I do? Well, let’s just say that story’s “whisper” becomes a “scream”. Ha!

No matter what project I take on, I have to love it. If I don’t have the passion and drive to tell it, then I won’t. I can’t! Books take a ton of time, a ridiculous amount of effort, and a wide range of emotions. If I don’t have the heart for it, then I’ll pass and find one I do.

4) How does my writing process work?

Recently, I’ve figured out an easy way to explain my writing process. In a nutshell, writing a story is like baking a cake:

  • Draft 1: Throwing all the ingredients into a bowl. AKA, just write! There’s no real plotting or outlining or planning. I sit down at my computer, press play on the “movie” inside my head, and write. As I work, I do take notes in an “Edit” document. This is where I scribble down plot holes as I discover them, mark down major character flaws, and ask myself “Why is this happening?” types of questions.
  • Draft 2: Bake the cake. AKA, build the story’s foundation. I use all those ingredients from my sloppy first draft and start baking them into a solid story. I analyze the plot, I mold my characters, and I constantly ask, “Why is this happening?” and “What is the purpose of this?” and “Is this important?” If there’s no answer, then I chop it out. Why do I need a line/scene/character if it doesn’t move the story forward?
  • Draft 3 (and so on): Frost the cake: This is when I go back and start making things “pretty”. I juice up my descriptives, deepen my characters, add an extra punch to my action scenes, zero in on repetitive words/phrases, etc. Basically, I search and search for every and any flaw, and then I find ways to add in a bunch of “WTH just happened?” moments for the reader. I like to make them think they’re out of the woods and then–bam! I twist the story one last time to knock them off their feet…Well, I try, lol!

There are a few other do’s and don’ts about my writing process:

Do’s:

  • Pitch my concept/idea before I begin: Why work on a project if people aren’t fans of the idea from the get-go? So, before I type one sentence, I ask a handful of trusted individuals (writers, family, friends) what they think of it. If too many of them lack an “Oooh!” response, then I’ll toss it out and try another.
  • Listen to music for inspiration: I spend quite a bit of time commuting each day, and almost every minute of that commute is spent listening to music compilations I’ve created for whatever project I’m currently working on. They help me think/rethink scenes, come up with new ideas, or simply add fuel to my writing fire.
  • Find photos of my characters: Similar to music, I thrive off imagery, especially when it comes to my characters. As I write, I always have photos of my main leads nearby (aka, famous actors, models, or just random photos via Pinterest…sheesh, I don’t know what I’d do without Pinterest!) These visuals help me imagine what my characters’ expressions might look like, or what they might say or do in a certain situation.
  • Use beta readers: Showing off your hard work is both exhilarating and terrifying. However, it’s an absolute necessity if you wish to query or publish it. Just because you think your book is shiny and pretty and perfect, doesn’t mean it is. So, I always send my rough drafts to a few people I know and trust, and who I know will be brutally honest with me. They won’t say, “Oh, it was so good! I loved everything about it!” They’ll say, “I liked these parts, but this scene didn’t make sense, this character was annoying, this relationship was shallow, this chapter was useless…etc.”

Don’ts:

  • Outline/pre-plot: I’ve attempted to sit down and outline a story before I start writing it, but it doesn’t work. When I write, I like to sit down and go! When people ask me how I can do this, I tell them it’s like a movie playing inside my head. I hit the “play button” and “watch” the events unfold. As a story progresses, I may pre-plot the next chapter in my head while listening to music in, but, overall, a story evolves as I type it out.
  • Write with music/noise: Turn it off! Turn it off! Silence is golden when I write. I wish I could listen to the music that inspires me while I work, but it’s too distracting. In fact, I’ve been wanting to invest in a pair of noise canceling headphones.
  • Show first drafts: First drafts suck. They do! And mine are horrible because I don’t outline/pre-plot, so they’re crammed with loopholes, discrepancies, 2-D characters, repetitive words, stilted dialogue, needless scenes, lukewarm action, cheesy romance, confusing twists…I’ll just stop there 😉 It’s usually the 2nd or 3rd draft I finally feel good about to send to my beta readers.

So there you go! Hope you enjoyed some insight into my writing! If you’re interested in reading any of my work, click on Jen’s Pen up above!

Up next on this round of the writing blog hop are two of my favorite bloggers/writers. If you’re not following their blogs, you MUST! You’ll find great tips, moving poetry and stories, touching insights, and so much more.  Check them out!

Ronovan Writes:

I’ve chosen my NaNoWriMo project – finally

I know it’s late in the game to make this important decision, but I’ve finally made it. For NaNoWriMo, I’m going to work on my young adult novel, Fallers.

For those of you who don’t know the background on this already, Fallers was originally optioned back in 2011 by a producer in Hollywood. Unfortunately, despite its “golden” concept, it never found its way off the cutting room floor. Instead of skyrocketing to bookshelves across the globe as I was told it would, it shriveled up on my computer and died a slow painful death.

rip-tombstoneThis past summer, I sadly, but firmly, put Fallers to rest, and after drying my tears and giving myself a sharp mental slap, I embarked on a new project (the “other” story I was considering for NaNo). But, wouldn’t you know it? Fallers refused to be silenced so easily. It kicked and clawed its way out of Jen’s Creative Cemetery and stomped its way back into my life, bringing with it new ideas: A new story structure, new characters, new twists and turns. A NEW story!

So, I’m going to give Fallers v.2 a chance. I’m going to use NaNo to discover what its new story is and if that story is powerful enough to do what Fallers v.1 couldn’t do–dazzle and delight and inspire. If not, then I’ll be putting it to rest for good…I think 😉

Good luck NaNo participants! And remember:

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