Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Writing Process

Throughout college, I would hear the phrase “use the writing process” on a daily basis. I’m not sure why, but the word “process” made the whole thing seem a bit intimidating. I’ve been writing all my life, but I’ve never followed a how-to guide on it. However, when I actually stopped and thought about it, of course I had a writing process. It was just unique to me and not outlined in a book. My writing process starts with an idea. I don’t sit around trying to come up with something, the stories just come to me. Usually I discover that the ideas sound better in my head than on paper (which is why I have so many unfinished projects). This time, however, I feel that the idea transferred from my head to the paper rather well.

After coming up with the idea, I was off to do a little research. My completed project, a middle grade historical fiction book, is called Pocahontas and the Gift of Peace. I wanted the book to be based on factual events that occurred during Pocahontas’ time on the English settlement of Henricus (now the city of Henrico). Therefore, research was a very important element in my process. When my initial research was complete, I decided to get to know my characters. A well-rounded character is more than a name. With well-rounded characters, the readers can connect with them because their appearance and personality is so apparent. A character’s personality can be shown by the way they think, speak to other characters, or actions they choose to do. Although my two main characters are both 12-year-old girls, they are from different time periods. I wanted their speech and actions to reflect their own time period and emphasize their differences.

The next part of my writing process strays from what you would learn in school. Since I had already seen the entire story play out in my head, I did not see a reason to make myself an outline. I actually did something that I have never done before. I created a Table of Contents before I actually wrote the book. I know it sounds odd, it still does to me. But it worked. Creating the Table of Contents helped me separate the story already ingrained into my brain into sections. I feel that it also helped me condense some areas that I may have drawn out if I had written it for older kids. With the research, characters, and story all situated in my head, it was time to write.

For those of you who don’t know, this book is actually part of a series. So while writing, I had fun throwing in subtle tidbits and new characters that would reoccur in different books. It will be interesting to see if people actually make the connections later down the road. With the writing complete, the hard part begins. Editing! In my mind, editing your own work is not fun. It is a very tricky process because most of the time your brain knows what you intended to say, so it doesn’t always see the mistakes. Thankfully, I had great family and friends edit it with me. When everyone was done with their copy, I compiled all the corrections to make a final draft.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Need to Write

From a very young age, I have had stories swimming in my head. Stories of fantasy, adventure, and happily ever after. These stories play continuously in my mind, day and night. In grade school, my favorite place to go was the Book Nook. This was our elementary school’s own “Publishing Company”. With so many books published from the Book Nook, I knew that one day I was going to a writer. However, to my own disappointment, I put my dream on hold to pursue the path that was expected of me.

Upon entering college as an English major, I was constantly asked what in the world was I planning to do with a B.A. in English. Of course I couldn’t say I was going to be a writer…That just wasn’t practical. So I settled on teaching elementary school. Since most of what I write is geared towards kids, this was an opportunity to get a front row seat into the minds of the children that I would love to write for. By working in an elementary school for 5 years, I was able to get a good idea of what children loved to read. I was ready to write my masterpiece, except for one small perfectly beautiful problem. The week before the last day of school, I gave birth to my first beautiful baby girl.

At the time, I honestly didn’t even think about my writing. I was so in love with my little girl (and busy), that everything was focused around her. It wasn’t until I was 5 months pregnant with my second child that my writing itch came back. During my second pregnancy, I was on bed-rest for about 3 months. During these 3 months, thanks to my mom helping out with my eldest daughter, I was able to write my first children’s novel. But again, another beautiful daughter was born and my writing was forgotten.

My youngest daughter is now 4 and my lonely novel is tired of collecting dust. So begins my journey to find an agent and get my book(s) published. From all the research I have gathered, this is not an easy task to accomplish. Many great books have been passed over, simply because the market was not right at the time. Some agencies only take a few new clients a year. And most agencies are not big fans of representing children’s chapter books. Even with hundreds of factors working against me, I will try to stay positive throughout my journey. All it takes is one yes!