Before you do anything else, go to NPR and listen to this bus driver tell his story. It will take 2 minutes. I promise it will make the rest of your day better.
If you work in a bookstore and have the midnight shift for Pottermania tonight, I’m sorry. When you’re surrounded by the mob of drooling, squealing readers and their parents, remember this: you are making the world a better place. One book, one reader at a time.
Let’s hope none of your wizards upchuck in the excitement.
The early morning hours have been spent posting a new curriculum guide for FEVER 1793. This guide is for students in grades 5-8, and was written to meet New York State Standards. Many thanks to Carol Frego of Colton-Pierrepont Central in Colton, NY both for writing this guide and giving me permission to share it with all of you.
This is going to be a housekeeping, to-do list, get stuff in order kind of day, so I might as well get to some of the email from readers.
First, shout-out to Jessica in Sheepshead Bay. How was the dance? Thanks also to Victoria V for writing.
Chris H who saw me at the SCBWI National Conference in LA in 2002 writes: … I really liked Prom, I enjoyed the sarcasm and the voice in it. I’ve rolled my eyes at some of the comments and reviews that Prom isn’t up to Speak’s standards, but its an entirely different book. But I really enjoy your style. I read on your website that it usually takes you two years and seven drafts to write a book, but how long does it take you to write the first draft? Do you outline at all?… Anyway I look forward to your next book and hope that someday I’ll get to meet you in person – I chickened out at the conference, you were at the bar with Scot but I didn’t want to intrude….
First, if anyone sees me at a writer’s conference ever, please feel free to come up and talk to me. That is why I’m there. I learned how to write and how to get published because a lot of very nice people (Bruce Coville, Paula Danzinger, Sharyn November, Chris Crutcher, Kevin Lewis, Sue Campbell Bartoletti, Lisa Rowe Fraustino and others) who were kind and generous to me at conferences. Most authors have had this experience and most of us take the debt seriously, and welcome the chance to pass on what was shared with us.
Having said that, when you saw me at the conference, Scot and I had just gotten engaged and I was capable of little more than giggling and blushing! (He still makes me giggle and blush, but now I can form complete sentences in public.)
My writing process is changing as my mom responsibilities are shrinking. The 2yr/7 draft standard was set when I was a full-time mom, including driving back and forth to LOTS of basketball practices. I have one kid at home now, and she’s as independent as they come. In a few weeks, I’ll be an empty nester.
I’ve noticed this summer that my writing is flowing much, much quicker than ever before. Some of that, no doubt, is practice. The more you write, the more familiar your mind becomes with the process and the techniques. I also think having more quiet time to myself is helping enormously. I do not multitask well, and when I get interrupted, it takes me a long time to get back to work. (This is why it took 7 years to write FEVER 1793.)
I don’t really outline, but I sort of do. I bet some people would call my first draft an outline. It truly is a quick and dirty draft: this happens and then this happens and then they talk and then this happens. If I can clearly hear a conversation or see a setting detail or an image, I’ll stick it in, but I don’t agonize about the little stuff when I’m painting with the broad brush. That is what the subsequent drafts are for. I don’t so much write books as I find them. With each draft, I find a stronger and more accurate set of glasses through which I can see the world of the characters.
You asked how long the first draft takes. I am avoiding your question. Rather, I am going to tread around it cautiously.
What works for me – my process, my timelines – works for me because of who I am and where I am in my life and my career. Each author has to find her/his own process. I doubt you and I would trade wardrobes, or children, or any other aspect of our lives. So if my process feels weird or silly or outrageous to you, don’t worry. All that matters is that you keep looking for your own path, and that you be gentle with yourself.
Having said that, the Muse has been good to me this summer. This computer is smoking. I’ve written two first drafts – one for a YA and one for an adult novel (not sure if that will ever see the light of day, but writing it has helped fight back some demons). I’m averaging about 2,000 words a day, but I am not writing every single day. Some days I’m busy packing and being Mom. Other days I’ve put in 10 or 12 hours into a book. By the end of August, I hope to be through the 2nd draft of the YA. If it doesn’t totally suck, I will then show it to my very small circle of Trusted Readers (which includes
I hope that helps.
PS – Thanks for your comments about PROM. I really appreciate readers who are willing to let me reach for new voices. I love SPEAK and I loved writing it and I am honored by the response to it, but it would not be much fun to rewrite that book over and over again for the next thirty years. I have a lot of voices in my head waiting for their chance to speak up.
I spent so much time answering Chris’ question, the rest of the mail will have to wait. (Max – I still have your note. I want to answer it closer to when the movie debuts. I’m sure those questions will come up a lot then.)