4 x 4 Blog Hop

Hi all,

I was invited by talented YA fantasy writer Dina von Lowenkraft, author of Dragon Fire, to participate in the 4 x 4 Blog Hop. Thanks for nominating me, Dina!

I hereby answer the questions for the hop:

1) What are you working on?

I’m working on a YA psychological/supernatural thriller set in a convent in the Puerto Rican rain forest in the 1970s.

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

As human beings  from different cultural backgrounds, environments and upbringing, we all have our own individuality and the potential to bring originality into our work. When we follow our true vision, regardless of what other writers are doing or what is ‘trendy’ at the moment, when we write with passion and honesty, when we go to where the pain is and where the pleasure is, we can create works that are fresh and unique.

3) Why do you write what you do?

Because I cannot not do it. My creative spirit must have an outlet, a channel. In my case, it is writing stories. For others, it is creating a painting or sculpture or music composition. If I weren’t able to write and create my fictional worlds, I would probably be mentally unstable. Where would that rush of creativity go? Suppressed, in what devious ways would it unleash?

4) How does your writing process work?

It may start with an image, a character, a name, a title. There are no rules, and it’s never the same with every book. Sometimes a single image simmers in my mind for years before it becomes the spark for a story.

Then I mentally play with ideas and the thing that was just an image begins to expand into a web. Simple at first. Then more intricate as I spend more and more time thinking about it. And I think about it. A lot. While driving, walking, taking a shower, doing housework, etc–routine, monotone activities, which are great for creativity. Once I can’t stop thinking about it, once I become obsessed, that’s when I know I’m ready to start jotting down words and sketching a rough plot.

Nowadays, I like to begin ‘discovering’ the story using Alan Watt’s “Unlock the Story Within” techniques. Once I have a more solid idea of the characters and where I want to go with them, my plotting gets tighter and more detailed, but never at the expense of staying flexible and open to change. In fact, what I love most about the writing process are those surprises that I never saw coming.

For plotting, I love Alexandra Sokoloff’s method and Carol Hughes’ Deep Story method.

Then, after some anxious procrastination, I try to put my ego aside and sit down and face the blank page. That is never easy. In fact, it is terrifying. Every time. But the need and passion to create is greater, I guess, because finally I just do it.

The plot keeps evolving as I write. I adjust and change things as needed.

I may write like the wind at times, but those moments are rare. Usually, I edit as I write, which slows down my writing process considerably–not to mention that it prevents me from getting in “the zone.”

Rituals and habits work for me. I write best in the mornings. Unless life gets in the way, I’m at my desk Monday-Friday from 9:30 am to noon. I put my timer and go. There’s something about the timer that works for me, as if somehow I’m tricking my brain. Sometimes I listen to an eerie movie soundtrack (for my current YA WIP, I often listen to Interview with a Vampire, among others); other times I need complete silence.

Slow but steady. This pretty much describes my progress. I would love to be one of those writers who can cough up a whole novel in four months, but I’m not–not yet, anyway.

Once I finish the first draft, I spend an agonizing amount of time editing and polishing. My SCBWI critique partners are awesome at pointing out things that I can’t see. Also, I always hire a professional editor before I send my manuscript to my agent. I think a professional editor is a writer’s best investment. I love Deborah Halverson of DearEditor.com. She’s fabulous.

It takes me about two years to fully complete a book that is ready for submission. I’m trying to write faster and cut it down to a year. But it isn’t easy.

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And now…I nominate the following author to continue with the 4 x 4 Blog Hop…

Irene Roth!

Irene Roth is a freelance writer for teens and tweens. She has published over 180 ezine articles about adolescent self-confidence and self-esteem. When Irene’s not writing for adolescents, she loves writing about the psychology of writing. Irene is also a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature.