Thursday, May 8, 2014

In Which I Remind Myself to STOP Comparing Myself to Other Writers (also, a huge favor!!)

I know two great truths about writing:

Trust the process. 


Every writer's process is different. 

Despite the fact that I know these two statements to be true, I doubt them all the time. 

I have to learn over and over that if I write a bit every day, I will eventually reach the end of a draft. And regardless of how messy it is, if I go back IN, I will eventually manage a second (and third and fourth and fifth) draft. And each draft will be a tad better than the draft before. And finally, if I keep at it, I will write THE END on the manuscript and it will truly be THE END. 

I also have to learn over and over to stop comparing myself to other writers. 

Back story: I am struggling mightily with a revision. For several months I worked my butt off every day on a fourth draft (or maybe it was a fifth draft. I don't even know anymore). This was a daily struggle that honestly felt like a battle.  But I am nearing (I HOPE!!) the end, and I am (ALMOST!) ready to send it off to my agent. 

I was feeling kinda proud of myself, and then I participated on a panel discussion with a group of eight other YA writers and someone in the audience asked a question about our writing process. 

Everyone sounded so disciplined and serious and confident and cheerful. 

Mindee Arnett, author of The Nightmare Affair (which is a trilogy) and Avalon (which is also a trilogy) calls herself a "pantser who likes to ask for directions." She writes fast drafts, without outlines, and logically plots out her story as she goes. (Oh, I should mention that Mindee has a full-time job, little kids at home, and a horse farm.) 

Mindy McGinnis, author of Not a Drop to Drink (recently optioned for film by Stephenie Meyers' production company) is a full time high school librarian who writes her books at night. 

One of the writers works when her son is at kindergarten. Another churns out romance novels. Two of the writers work as a team and co-write their books. 

And so it went, until it was my turn. 

I have no full time job. One of my kids is away at college and the other has a foot eagerly out the door. I have entire days stretching out in front of me with no real obligations except walking the dog. Every day I have the best of intentions to start my work early, and every day I do everything I possibly can to NOT start working, until finally the pressure becomes so great that I want to tear my hair out of my scalp. Only then, do I open my file and begin. 

I've talked to many writers over the years and am always fascinated by how they work. 

Alan Gratz writes these detailed 60 page outlines before he even begins writing his books.

Kristin Tubb thinks through her scenes--every descriptive detail and movement and bit of dialogue-- and when she is ready to write, it all just scrolls out.

And here's me:

I write with very little idea where my story is going. 

I take my story apart multiple times and put it back together. 

I stress over every damn choice I make. 

I make outlines and checklists and excel spreadsheets and index cards and posters. 

I draw maps and build papermache sets. 

I rant to my husband about plotholes until he hates me. 

My writing partner --the sweet blessed friend who has read all of my drafts for the past 6 years -- is afraid to talk to me without first tiptoeing around and saying stuff like, Now this is really good. There's hardly anything you're going to have to do to fix it. Maybe, two or three days at most... (because she's learned how resistant I am to hearing criticism despite how RIGHT it is)

I visit schools and libraries and I talk to beginning writers and more seasoned ones and I tell them that there is no RIGHT way to write, that writers figure out their own process, that even after you do think you know what you're doing, you may have to figure it all over again with each new book.

I bet I sound so confident and serious and self-disciplined and freaking cheerful.  

So now I've got a great favor to ask my writing friends: 

I'm putting together a powerpoint for an upcoming revision talk for an SCBWI regional conference. I'd love to show visual representations of how writers write. If I choose yours, I'll give you full credit and talk up your book at the conference. See below for examples:

William Faulkner wrote on his walls... 

Laurie Halse Anderson's "road map" of her latest critically acclaimed novel The Impossible Knife of Memory.

Notes on my book Thin Space

If you're game for sharing, shoot me an email jodycasella (@) yahoo (.) com 
Include a photo of how you write with a sentence or two of explanation. 
Deadline: June 30 

Thanks so much!

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