A Blog-Tag-Tour: With My Apology
Martin Luther king, Jr. is a personal hero of mine, for many reasons. I wrote about those reasons in a post several years back, so you’re welcome to take a look, if you really want to know why.
Several weeks ago I was invited to participate in a blog tour about my writing process by one of the best researchers, writers, and speakers around, Susan E. Goodman. It was an honor to be offered this invitation, because I’ve long admired Susan as a writer. And as a person.
It’s embarrassing to admit it, but I agreed to participate and then managed to lose track of that promise. No excuses here- I just blew it. While never intending to let her down or break my promise, that’s what I managed to do.
I’ve apologized to Susan, who has the most gracious and generous soul.
Her understanding and continued friendship are important to me. But apologies don’t erase rudeness.
So, although the timing is wrong and this post won’t be part of the blog tour, I will follow through on the questions now. At least this way I’m making my apology publicly, sharing these thoughts about writing, and reminding myself that, even when late, the time is always right to do the right thing.
What am I currently working on?
This question forces me to define “working on”.
I’ve been very busy not-writing lately, but doing loads of things related to sharing Odin’s Promise with readers. That’s new to me, and challenging. It’s frustrating and confusing at times, but joyful and exciting at others.
Now, as for writing:
- Top of my list is research. Selecting, reading, and making notes for a potential follow-on book involving the effects of the ensuing years of occupation on Mari and her family.
- This week I made the “final” revisions on a picture book text for submission to an agent I met in April. My latest attempt had some excellent tweaking notes from critique partners. Advice from that agent and from a recent Eric Rohmann workshop has been applied. It will go out the door with fewer than three hundred words and involve two characters. That’s down from its original version over a decade ago when it began with 1800 words and eight characters.
- A second picture book text is awaiting follow-up critique notes from an editor, and I find myself still considering an additional comic twist at the end. This one has me really excited, but for now it just has to simmer on the sidelines.
- Which brings me back to #1 above. I never intended Odin’s Promise to be anything but a stand-alone title. Once it was complete, though, I often reflected on how the various lives of the characters would unfold within the context of the additional research I had accumulated. Since its publication, readers often ask, “What happens next?”
That leads me to the next question for this blog tour:
How does my individual writing process work?
To begin with, anything I write seems to come from some thought that won’t let go. In picture books that could be a line or an image or some other “scene” that sticks in my head. My files (paper and digital) are stuffed with various titles and stories that have started that way, developed very “competently”, but lacked the spark or magic needed to generate a quality picture book. By that I don’t mean literal magic, I mean the combination of character, story, heart, and pacing to make it a “read it again” book that will work for years to come.
Occasionally I look back through those files to see if anything there offers a lead that could rise to the highest level picture book. If so, I’ll pull it out and start anew. I have learned so much more about how and why to write picture books that I don’t even attempt one now until a fully developed concept is well-established in my mind.
And that’s when the real work begins, including cycling through critique partners multiple times, “resting” the story for long periods, seeking input at conferences and workshops, searching for comparable titles, and revising.
That’s the picture book process.
It’s different for magazine stories, poems, and other shorter works.
As for novels, I’m a blend of “planner” and “pants-er”- I don’t start until I have a fairly well-thought-out plan in mind, including the general plot and the characters’ trajectories and relationships. Then, I begin drafting.
That’s when the character opens his or her mouth, or nudges with an elbow, and alters my course. It’s this “seat of the pants” writing that has led to the most interesting developments. I believe that comes from having a strongly formed sense of character and a grasp of the time, place, problems, and particulars so that the characters are able to create a map within my map. Whatever it is, I felt it that happening during the writing of Odin’s Promise.
That’s why my present project presents some challenges. The characters are already at home in my mind, and so is the setting. Now I’m busy “uploading” information about the continuing occupation years, related world developments, combing through details and secondary characters from the original work, and generating timelines and scenarios. Only when I feel I can readily access all of the above without “looking it up” will I feel ready to lay out a plan for a full book.
That’s the “planner” stage.
Then I’ll sit down to draft and hope to get high-jacked along the way to lead me into an even better story and outcome than I had imagined.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Hmmm…. Well, rather than differ, I’d like to think of it in terms of a VENN diagram, with a fairly large overlapping region. I would hope that my writing is very much like many others I admire. I want readers to enjoy reading, first and foremost. I’m an avid reader of many types of books for many purposes. In general, it’s the fact that I ENJOY reading that keeps me doing it. I also hope there are things in my book that offer comparisons to others in subject matter, interesting characters, discovering facts in the midst of fiction. These are all things I find in books I admire.
I do hope, though, that my voice is distinct (through the voices of my characters), and that the stories I tell are told in a way that readers would feel no one cares as much about them as I do.
Why do I write what I write?
I love books. I love reading. I love writing. I love talking about reading and writing. I’ve written academic articles, poetry, magazine stories, picture book text, paneled text, middle grade novels. Some have been published, many more have not. I write the things that matter to me. I don’t worry about an idea “getting away”. If it does, it didn’t want me to write it. When ideas hang on, nag, paw at me, kick the covers, and pull my hair, I write them.
And that’s what I should have posted here several weeks ago. Someone very wise once said, “The time is always right to do the right thing”.
Another Wisconsin writer and friend, Anne Bingham, will be sharing her thoughts on these questions in a forthcoming post. I’ll link to it here when it’s live, and you won’t want to miss it.