On Writing and the Writing Life

19th Century gentleman with 21 century MacBook

Image: The Art of Manliness

Here are four questions that are making the rounds through the blogosphere. My colleague, Natalie Trust, tagged me, and at the end of this post I’ll tag three more writers.

Question 1: What are you currently working on?

Can I answer “It’s a secret?” No? Well let’s just say I’m not quite ready to reveal the whole project just yet. It’s a chapter book influenced in part by my daughter’s experiences and imagination and in part by the many chapter books Julia and I have read to her over the last two years. Like Anna, the main character starts out the second grade in a new school, like Anna, she joins the Girl Scouts and becomes a Brownie, and like Anna her adventures are shaped by her vivid imagination. So far I have settings, scene outlines and some dialogue for the first three chapters. I also have a title for the book (and possible series) and an great elevator pitch that describes the main character and her adventures in one sentence. That’s all I’m saying for now. Next week, while Anna is in her next Girl Scout day camp, I plan to write a rough draft of at least the first three chapters and possibly more once I get rolling.

Question 2: How does my project differ from others in the same genre?

I’m not sure if it differs in any one way as much as in a unique combination of ways. The protagonist is a girl and most of the supporting characters are girls. The stories are adventures–a genre more traditionally boy-centered–but the girls in them still act and talk like girls should, and often do in real life–imaginative, assertive, and confident, but in a completely “girl” way. It takes place in school and at home–as many of these books do—but also in a Girl Scout troop—which I haven’t seen too much. And the main character has a vivid imagination which enlivens the stories. The reader sees things as she sees. Plus if the series is successful I could see it advancing in reading level as the central character grows older. So it starts with a chapter book series about a second grader and evolves into a middle grade series about a middle schooler. The readers will grow with the character as the length and reading level of the book gradually increase. I don’t know of any other series that does this.

Question 3: Why do you write/create what you do?

I get stories in my head and I want to get them out. I began by talking about myself and my daughter and being a dad and it’s starting to snowball. The more I write the more fluid I get and the more ideas come in my head. I have others besides the story I’m currently writing. I want to expand the story of my own spiritual journey from the 500-word essay I wrote for Catholic Digest to a full length memoir, but I may need to write several versions along the way. I also want to tell the story of my mom growing up in London during the Second World War. I knew I’d have to make it a novel and now I think it may work best as an urban fantasy where the constant presence of death thins the boundary between this world and the next. I have other stories in my head too, based on people I know that might become short stories or novels someday. I just have to write them as they come to me. One story at a time.

Question 4: How does your writing/creating process work?

I’m still figuring that out. I had a very specific outline for my first book that I followed pretty closely. Yes, I made some changes as I edited, but because I was telling a true story in a chronological order, the plot arc was a given. The challenge was figuring out what to put in and what to leave out and I learned through experience that it’s better to throw everything in and see what sticks then to try to decide ahead of time. With my current project I have a title that tells me vaguely what’s going to happen and an opening that pretty clear. But I’m not sure what the big climax is going to be. I know what needs to happen to the character as far as her growth through the story, but I’m not sure how it’s going to happen. What will she do? What events will lead to the conclusion I’m seeking? I have to write it to figure it out and I’ve never done that before. I’m definitely a “planner” when I write non-fiction, but maybe I’m a “pantser” when I write fiction. It’s a first for me, and it’s both scary and fun at the same time!

Question 5: Which Three Writers Am I “Tagging?”

Honestly, I put more thought into this question than the other four. I wanted a variety of voices and experiences—traditionally published and independently published; fiction and non-fiction writers; authors of stand-alone books and authors of series. After a lot of thought, here are my three choices.

  1. Addie Zierman, author of When We Were on Fire (Convergent Books, 2013—read my review).
  2. Anthony St. Clair, author of the Runsack Universe series of travel/fantasy books (2012-14).
  3. Leslie Lindsay, Author of Speaking of Apraxia, a Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech (Woodbine Press, 2012—read my review) and an emerging fiction writer seeking representation.

I’m looking forward to their responses.


2 thoughts on “On Writing and the Writing Life

  1. Pingback: Tag, I’m It! | Fatherhood Etc.

  2. Pingback: When You Discover Something About Yourself as a Writer | David Ozab

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