Monday, April 21, 2014

Sucker Literary Magazine Bloghop: The Writing Process

Hello there, Esteemed Reader! I'm hoping this finds you well. I know I've been away too long again, but I promise to make up what I lack in new blog posts with new books soon to be available. We've got some great books in the pipeline for review, some fantastic writer interviews, and even some upcoming literary agent interviews.

Today, however, I promised my friend and fellow YA Cannibal Shannon Lee Alexander (that's her debut novel to the left due out this fall) that I would do this blog hop thing to promote Sucker Literary. This means I had to find 3 other  authors to also go along with this and she already asked fellow cannibals Mike Mullin (read his post here) and Julia Karr (read her post here).

Well, one of the authors I asked had to drop out, but next Monday look forward to posts from our old friends Linda Benson and Ally Malinenko. We're all answering four questions about our writing process, which is fun as I love reading about other writer's processes--much easier than writing something myself:)

So, without further adeau, here we go:

1. What am I working on?

This blog post. Duh.

Also, All Right Now: A Short Zombie Story. I'm about 3-4 chapters from the end and I hope to be finished this week. I'm also polishing a final version of The And Then Story, my first MG book (actual title and cover reveal coming soon). When that's done, I'll be spending the rest of the year on The And Then Story 2.

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

My work is better. Naturally:)

My zombies are nastier and more violent than is typical for YA and I flatter myself in saying my characters are more fully realized than some. There are also a lot of laughs, though I'm not writing comedies, and a few tears. If you'd like to read more about my character development process, check out this interview I did with Jessica Lawson (read her blog hop post here). 

What set All Together Now apart was my zombie apocalypse was written from a teen's perspective. What I think will set All Right Now apart is that it's, to my knowledge, the first time someone has written Ernest Hemingway fan fiction set among zombies (how has no one else done this?).

3. Why do I write what I do?

I don't really have a good answer here, not even of the smart aleck variety. I'm quite convinced the stories I write pick me as much as I pick them. In the case of All Together Now, I became obsessed with zombies for a time (getting a little tired of them now) and I had a compulsion to write about the dead roaming a small Indiana town. 

In the case of All Right Now, I was wishing I'd left room for a sequel to ATN since readers had been kind enough to request one. The day my son was born, an idea for a second story seized me and I couldn't shake it, so I had to write it. ARN, in particular, existed already in that other place where stories come from and was just waiting for me to be ready to write it. 

I know this because ATN was structured to perfectly accommodate it even though I never planned to write a second zombie book. Without any pre-planning, the two stories (which take place concurrently) fit together intricately like pieces of a puzzle. They were meant to coexist even before I knew there was a second story.

If  this sounds kooky to you, Esteemed Reader, all I can say is that I've been writing long enough that the weird, other-worldliness of the craft writers occasionally bump into doesn't phase me much anymore. It's just part of it. I've been living in the haunted house long enough to be used to the ghost at the top of the stairs.

4. How does my writing process work?

Extremely slowly. Seriously, it's embarrassing. Every year I watch NaNoWriMo writers finish their rough draft in a month or less and curse them:) A full novel takes me 6-10 months. I'm slow and deliberate with my first drafts and I often revise before I finish. The upside is I don't have to do a great deal of rewriting my second time through.

Usually, I have an idea, I work up a "grocery list," which is what I call my very vague initial outline in which I list the major events of the story. From there I decide who my characters will be and start page one, knowing I'm likely to rewrite my first 10 pages more than any other section in the novel. I obsess over the story as I go to tease out themes and symbolism and other deep thoughts only I and my high school English teacher will ever care about.

If it's a longer work, I submit the first act to the YA Cannibals to make sure I'm on the right track, and slowly grind it out until I have the book I wanted. When it's done, I set the book aside long enough to forget it while I write something else, then I come back with fresh eyes and make my changes. From there, it goes to the cannibals again, and then my editors, and then to you, Esteemed Reader. Some meaningful changes occur after the first draft, but usually draft one is pretty close to the final draft. 

Of course, every story is different and I adjust my process accordingly.

And now, here's some bios of writers who aren't me:

Shannon Lee Alexander is a wife, mother (of two kids and one yellow terrier named Harriet Potter). She is passionate about coffee, books, and cancer research. Math makes her break out in a sweat. Love and Other Unknown Variables is her debut novel.  She currently lives in Indianapolis with her family. You can follow her at or on Twitter @shanlalexander.

Ally Malinenko, a self-proclaimed Bardolator, took her first pilgrimage to Stratford-Upon-Avon in 2009 and hasn’t been the same since. Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb is her first children's book. Her poetry book, The Wanting Bone, was published by Six Gallery Press. She blogs at Ally lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

Linda Benson is the author of the middle grade novels Finding Chance and The Horse Jar. Click here to read my review of Finding Chance, which I absolutely loved. I’m thrilled to have such a talented writer here today. In her own words, Linda Benson’s “writing tends to focus on the importance of nature and animals in the lives of children. I've realized how enriching the human-animal bond is to children (as well as adults). This is why I often write about young people and their connection to animals.” In addition to being a writer, Linda Benson has worked at a zoo feeding raw meat to lions and jaguars, written lots of country songs, worked at a race-track grooming thoroughbred racehorses, owned a saddle shop, worked as a realtor, raised spotted donkeys, and been a children’s librarian. 

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