Oodles of thanks to fellow children’s author, Fleur Hitchcock,creator of such gems as Shrunk! and Dear Scarlett, for asking me to join in with this My Writing Process Blog Tour. For Fleur’s own unique writing process take a look here
Here are my answers to the questions we’re all answering.
What are you working on?
Having completed work on my Opal Moonbaby series, it’s time for a change. My initial reaction to finishing such a big project was to write something completely different and I began working on much shorter stories, stories which allowed me to play, and which I hoped wouldn’t leave my brain hanging out in long shreds. Writers beware, though, it turns out that even short stories have significant brain-shredding properties. Things can get equally tangled up, if not for such a long period! Anyway the result is, I’m now working with my editor on two brand new stories which will become part of Orion’s wonderfully colourful and eclectic mix of Early Readers. I’m very chuffed to be contributing to such a gorgeous set of books.
And yes, in the background I’m brewing something rather longer. It’s another novel for the junior/middle grade age group. No aliens this time but plenty of fantastical characters on the loose.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
Yikes! I don’t know. I like to have an idea of what age group I’m writing for and what I’m going to write about, but I don’t tend to think too much about genre. When a book is about to be published some lucky person has to fill in a thing called an Advance Information Sheet and tick a box to say which ‘category’ the book falls into. (I know this because my MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University covered many aspects of the publishing process.) If they let me get hold of the sheet I’d start ticking loads of boxes, which is probably even illegal! Friendship might be the obvious category for Opal Moonbaby books but I would also like to check Funny, Fantasy, Animals, Magic and Adventure. I didn’t set out to write a book that fell into one of those categories, or one genre, in particular. I just tried to tell the best, most entertaining story I possibly could.
Why do I write what I do?
I blame Mary Poppins. Her and a few others.
Ever heard the expression, you are what you eat? well I’ve got another one for you – you are what you read, or perhaps even better, you are everythng you’ve ever read. It was only after I’d written the first Opal Moonbaby book that I realised how very influenced I was by all the books I’d loved as a child. And it was the ones that had fantasy characters meeting real world characters that captured my imagination the most. The Cat in the Hat, The wolf from Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf, Mr Tumnus, the Psammead, Mary Poppins and Pippi Longstocking are all hard-wired into my (admittedly mainly shredded) brain and have an enduring influence on me.
Also, my books tend to be for the 8-11 age group and I think that’s because I have very strong memories of what it was like to be a tween, that difficult time in your life when you have to make such enormous leaps that you practically change into another person entirely, both physically and mentally. It’s a change my own daughters are just completing now, so they help remind me of what it’s like and that keeps me ‘in the zone’.
How does your writing process work?
Frankly, folks, it’s a blooming mess. I wish I could say otherwise but there’s no point trying to pull the wool over your eyes. There’s usually loads of angst and gloom and doom involved – stupid really, for something that has such lovely results. I think I belong to the Dorothy Parker school ‘hate writing, love having written’ and all that.
BUT, the best way I can describe my process is to liken it to doing a jigsaw puzzle, one without a picture that is.
I’ll try to get as many edge pieces in as possible. If I’m lucky I’ll bank a few good corners. Those are the bits I think of as the perameters of my story, at this stage a vague unfinished outline. Then I’ll probably start working on something in the middle, a character I like the feel of, or a big scene. I’ll let that spread out into other characters and other scenes until, with luck, the middle will meet up with the outside, and with more knowledge I can fill in more edge pieces as I go. It doesn’t always work, sometimes I end up with something that isn’t even a sensible shape. I’ll have a square jigsaw with a giant abscess sticking out of it – an abscess that will need lancing, although sometimes it will take my agent or editor to convince me of that. Eventually though, I’ll be looking for a coherent shape with every piece in just the right place.
I’m passing on the Writng Process baton to two wonderful writers:
Lou Kuenzler Lou is the author of the delightful Shrinking Violet series, Princess Disgrace, Aesop’s Awesome Rhymes and many other funny books/stories for primary school age children (including several titles such as Shadow Snatcher which aim to offer high interest stories to low ability readers). She has also written for CBeebies
Emma Carroll Emma is a fellow graduate of the brilliant Bath Spa University MA in Writing for Young People. Her debut novel, Frost Hollow Hall, has just been longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2014, and rightly so. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric and frosty Victorian ghost story, just the thing to see you through the rest of this long old winter.
Don’t forget to check out Lou and Emma’s blogs soon. I bet they’ve got way more sensible writing processes than I have!