I’m taking a brief break from focusing on books I’m reading to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour that seems to be taking over the internet. It’s fascinating to read about so many writing processes. I’m honored to be tagged by awesome friend, blogger, and writer, Sharry Wright.
What am I currently working on?
I’m working on a contemporary YA about a Japanese-American girl who aspires to travel the world and become a famous travel writer, but underneath her adventurous spirit is a broken heart. I’m not ready to give more detail as I’m about to embark on a big revision. I’ve been working on this novel for a very long time. An earlier version went to acquisitions seven years ago (but obviously didn’t sell). It took until last year for me to dig it back up and rewrite it completely from scratch. I’ve grown a lot as a writer, so I hope I can do this story justice now.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
As with all writers, I bring my unique perspective to my stories – my history, my feelings, my thoughts. I am a third generation Japanese-American who grew up in Los Angeles. I have traveled for much of my life and moved many times as an adult. I have a degree in zoology and have worked with all kinds of animals. All these things and more find their way into my writing.
The current We Need Diverse Books campaign has made me feel more confident about bringing my own perspectives and experience into my stories. When I first started out, a little over a decade ago, I tried to make my characters more “generic” – because I write contemporary stories not based on what is typically thought of as “multicultural,” I felt I needed to downplay the race of my main characters. Let me make it clear that this was my own issue and nobody was telling me to write that way. These days, I don’t let that inner voice censor me – my main characters are Japanese-American and while the stories do not focus on race, race plays a part of who my characters are and how they experience the world.
Why do I write what I write?
I write the kind of stories I love to read, the ones the teen me would have loved to read. I’m fascinated with characters in search of themselves – the ones longing to discover their identity, their voice. I am interested in the journey characters take to make those discoveries. I write to appease my curiosity, to feel, to think, to laugh and cry. These are all the same reasons I read what I read.
How does my individual writing process work?
It varies for each story, but basically, I start with a horrible shitty first draft that nobody but me will ever see. I don’t outline or do any character sketches. I usually have nothing more than a main character and a premise. As I draft, I get to know my character and her story. After a first draft, I sit down with a craft book or two and run through writing and character exercises to get a better handle on my story. Some favorite books I use are The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson, Novel Metamorphosis by Darcy Pattison, and The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass, among others. I also take time to read inspirational writing books, like On Writing by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. This ritual helps me prepare for the next scary step, crafting a story from my first draft.
After one or two solid revisions, I share my draft with my writing partners – trusted readers who give me great suggestions and input for improvement. I respect them immensely as writers. I revise and receive feedback at least one more time before I feel I can submit.
I have a unique writing relationship with two fabulous writer friends, Jo Knowles and Cindy Faughnan. We’ve been exchanging manuscripts, writing together on annual retreats, and talking about our work since we met in 2005. What makes our working relationship unique is that we work together virtually almost daily. It all started because I moved to China for my husband’s job – we logged onto Skype while we worked, touching base every fifteen minutes or so. I think it started as a way for me to connect because I felt so very lonesome and isolated in China (yes, in a country of over a billion people)! But over the years it’s evolved to keep us focused. I’m always embarrassed if when we check in I have to admit to goofing off on email or Facebook instead of writing. These days we use both email and Skype to check in.
I’m so very fortunate to have a writing studio, The Word Nest. I’ve followed my husband for his career – seven moves in sixteen years. When we moved to Connecticut, this was his gift to me.
It’s separate from the house (next to the detached garage in a former wood shop) so I am able to focus on my writing and not allow myself to get distracted by non-writing things, like laundry, or a snack, or playing with my dog, or anything else that feels easier than facing the words on the page. I love having this very special place to call my own. I’m very grateful to my husband for this incredible gift.
I work best in the mornings. I’m an early riser (usually awake by 5:30) and after a morning walk with my husband and dog, I head to The Word Nest, meditate, and then get started with my writing. I work every morning, Monday through Friday. I try to keep at least one full day a week free for my writing. No appointments, no lunches with friends, no errands. It’s just me and my words. Those are my favorite days of all!
Cindy Faughnan lives in Vermont where she taught 7th and 8th grade English for 31 years. She now splits her time between writing and a part-time job in the schools with the Young Writers Project. She co-runs a novel retreat every March at Vermont College of Fine Arts where she earned her MFA. In 2007 she won a PEN Discovery Award for her middle grade work-in-progress. She is represented by Barry Goldblatt at Barry Goldblatt Literary.
Be sure to check on her blog next week to see her answers!
Jennifer says, “I began writing stories as soon as I could hold a crayon. Today I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. DEVIN RHODES IS DEAD is my debut novel and the winner of the National Association of Elementary School Principals Children’s Book Award. I am also a three-time finalist for the Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, offered by the journal, Hunger Mountain. I live in a suburb of New York City with my husband, two sons, a carnival goldfish named Cinnamon, and a love of chocolate.”
Check out her blog for her answers next week!
While you wait for their posts, why not check out a few past ones here:
If you’ve already been tagged, please share your link with me in the comments. I’d love to read what you have to say!
I’ll leave you with the view out of my window. Happy writing!