Monday, May 19, 2014


Hey! It's the My Writing Process Blog Tour, and I'm on it. Check out #MyWritingProcess on Twitter to hear from a variety of writers about how they survive - and even enjoy! -  this process.

So, first of all, many thanks to the Middle Grade Mafioso himself, Michael Gettel-Gilmartin, for tagging me in this My Writing Process blog tour. Michael has got to be the nicest mafioso in history. I’ve gotten to know him over at Project Mayhem, and if you’re not following him on Twitter, I have nothing more to say to you. (Except go follow him, and then come back here and read my blog post.)

What Am I Working On?

I am working on a YA contemporary novel that (I hope) will be comparable to HOLD STILL by Nina LaCour and BOY TOY by Barry Lyga. It’s something I’ve worked on sloooowly, in between middle grade projects over the last few years, and have now committed to buckling down and finishing, once and for all. It’s dark, and personal, and not nearly as much fun to write as my MG projects. But I’ve decided now is the time to finish or set it aside for good (but I’m committed to finishing).

Why Do I Write What I Write?

Although I am working on a YA, I consider myself a middle grade writer. I write MG because no one loves a book like a kid loves a book. Because the vast majority of avid adult readers I know can trace their love of reading back to HARRIET THE SPY or MATILDA or THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA or [INSERT YOUR CHILDHOOD BOOK OBSESSION HERE]. I love the idea of hooking in readers for life. I also love the hope inherent in middle grade. It’s a time of so much change and so much possibility and I love the idea of walking with kids through that period of their lives.

As for why I’m writing a YA, that’s a story I have to tell. It’s the story I wish I’d been able to read as a teen and I hope might be a lifeline to someone who needs it now.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Hmm. The only way I can think to answer this is to say that I’m the only one who can tell the stories I tell. Even when I tell stories that rely heavily on research or imagination, they still include huge parts of me—and my kids. I don’t even think I write in one genre—unless there’s a genre of books with strong influences from California, Seattle, Chicago, and Guatemala, with characters that are often some combination of biracial, dyslexic, homeschooled, and grappling with some painful childhood history, and often include elements of theater, cross-cultural experiences, and strong love of/aversion to books.

How does my writing process work?

Once I’ve got a seed of an idea, I usually do a fair bit of letting it develop in my brain before I ever write any actual words. When I’m ready, I do some prewriting work. Mostly jotting down everything that’s been simmering in my head, working on character development stuff, clarifying stakes. I like these posts on character development and plot development by the brilliant Robin LaFevers. Then I write an outline, not for the whole book, but that will get me through about 50 pages. Once I’ve written everything in the outline, I outline some more, basically just for as far ahead as I can see. I find that having some outline helps me draft quickly, and getting more writing done helps me clarify what needs to happen next in the outline.

When I’m drafting, I plow forward. I rarely go back and reread. If something happens in chapter nine that makes me realize something major has to change in chapter three, I don’t go back and make that change. I make a margin note of the necessary change and keep moving forward. When I’ve got a draft, I’ve got a whole list of things I already know need revising. So I work on revisions until I feel like it’s solid enough to show critique partners. I do a few rounds of revisions following CP feedback. Finally, I do several polishing passes, including ones where I print out a hard copy, where I read on the Kindle, and where I read aloud, which all catch different errors and flow issues.

The final step in my writing process is this: Once submissions have begun on one manuscript, I immediately start the next one.

Next Monday, I’m very excited for you to meet some awesome writer friends of mine and hear about their writing processes.

First up, Sharon Roat has been a valued critique partner of mine for several years. Sharon grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and now lives in Delaware with her husband and two children where she writes books for children and young adults. She worked in public relations for 20 years before deciding what she really wanted to be when she grew up. Her contemporary YA novel BETWEEN THE NOTES will be published by HarperTeen in 2015; she is represented by Steven Chudney. Visit her online at or on Twitter @sharonwrote.

Next, Laura Shovan was my pick in PitchWars last fall, because her gorgeous middle grade verse novel THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY blew me away. Apparently, it blew Stephen Barbara away too, because she just signed with him! Laura is poetry editor for Little Patuxent Review. Her chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone, won the Harriss Poetry Prize. Laura was a finalist for the 2012 Rita Dove Poetry Award and was a 2013 Gettysburg Review Conference scholarship recipient. Laura is a Maryland State Arts Council Artist-in-Residence. You can find her on Twitter @LauraShovan and online at

Finally, Darian Lindle is a fellow Seattle playwright turned novelist. She is a graduate of Indiana University with a degree in Theatre, French, and Film Studies and interned with Cahiers du Cinéma in Paris, the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, and the Seattle Repertory Theatre. Her stage adaptation of The Westing Game was published by Dramatic Publishing in 2010 and has since been performed at middle schools and high schools around the country. Next up, her sci-fi/steampunk play SILON will be produced by Live Girls Theater. Darian will soon begin her querying journey for a paranormal romance. You can find her on Twitter @dlindle and online at

Be sure to check out each of their homes on the web next Monday to hear all about their writing processes!