Writing & Publishing Questions Batch #2

Went for a nice walk in our Little Forest yesterday with the Creature With Fangs and my Beloved Husband.

BH is cooking up a new project that I’ll be blogging about soon. Can anyone guess what it is?

Whilst perambulating, I came across

the first hint of Spring. We are still likely to get snow for a couple of months, but the days are a wee bit warmer. Know what that means? The sap is starting to rise in the maple trees!!!!!

Aside from tromping through the snow, yesterday was an excellent writing day. I tried to take a break to watch the All-Star football game, but honestly, I couldn’t get into it.

Now, to Batch #2, (I will get to all of your questions, I promise, even if it take a couple of weeks.)

You asked: When you’re working, how do you measure progress? I’ve set a personal daily goal of 2000 words a day (1000 before lunch, 1000 after dinner) and try not to type less than that many a day.
I know other authors just spend X hours on the computer and are happy with whatever comes out.
DO you have a recommendation?

It depends on two things: what kind of book I’m trying to write and where I am in my writing process.
Right now I’m working on a historical novel. For me, that means I spend a lot more time up-front developing and polishing the two plot strands – the exterior plot of the story that deals with the historical events (CHAINS = occupation of New York City by the British in 1776) and the interior plot arc of my main character, which must be woven in with the historical events.

Right now I have all of the historical plotting done on my current Work In Progress. I’m still refining the interior stuff of my main character. In the last week, I tossed an entire sub-plot tangent that bogged down the book and took my character to a really dumb place. So sometimes, you can measure progress by what you are throwing out!

When I have the bones of my plot laid down, and I understand my character’s internal journey, then I let my imagination run and my fingers fly. At this point – if family demands and publicity needs can be kept at bay – I try to write a minimum of 10 pages a day, though it can be a lot more than that. These are not polished pages, not at all. This is letting the magic of story – circumscribed by the limits of my plot structure – flow.

After that comes the slow and painstaking revision process. Sometimes that means one page a day, but if I’ve done my job, it is a well-written page. Different writing tasks require different measuring sticks.

As always, a caution. This is the way the writing process works for me. Every writer develops her own style, so feel free to ignore all of my advice!

Another note – the process for my YA novels is different. Someone ask me about that later in the week, please.

You asked: what kind of educational background do you have and do you think it prepared you to be a writer. what other things helped you be a better writer?

I did not go to college straight after high school. I worked at the mall and later on a farm. When I was ready to go to school, I went to Onondaga Community College in Syracuse NY and got an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts. I LOVED community college. It had terrific professors and I could afford it. I did so well there that the nice people at Georgetown University gave me a big honking scholarship. That, combined with a lot of student loans, let me go there. I studied foreign languages and linguistics. I avoided the English department and did not take any creative writing classes.

What prepared me to be a writer was reading thousands of books, writing – for fun – not worrying about publication, and learning how to observe people and human behavior. I also had a job for a while as a freelance newspaper reporter. That helped me learn about deadlines and not being afraid to revise my work.

There are a few people who go to college and come out with the skills, perspective, and experience to launch themselves into a career as a full-time writer, but the truth is, that doesn’t happen to too many people. Go to college, study what sounds interesting, and figure out how to get a decent day job that will pay your bills. Then write for fun. Again, other authors did it differently. But it worked for me.

AFTER you reach your writing goal today, head over to Fuse #8 to watch the hands-down best video ever from the world of children’s publishing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (It’s long, but so worth it. Go to the bathroom first so you don’t ruin your pants.)

18 Replies to “Writing & Publishing Questions Batch #2”

  1. I will guess (and hope) that BH is planning to build you a super-cool treehouse hangout. In part because I’d really like one of those myself. (I’d also really love a hobbit hole, but alas, we lack sufficient property for one. I’d also love my own little Walden-like writing shed. Do you sense a “Kelly likes to play pretend” theme?)

  2. Hi. I found you through the LJ spotlight and, though I haven’t read any of your books, I’m enjoying your blog immensely.

    I have a question (or four, depending on how you look at it):

    What do you mean by “developing and polishing the two plot strands”? Do you work from an outline or plot summary? How involved does your editor get in this process? Do you bounce ideas off of anyone (who)?


  3. (nodding agreement on the what-to-study-in-college)

    I found that the writing was ultimately self-taught anyway. But the random things I studied in college–those all fueled the writing by being things I knew about. I think anything one learns fuels the writing in some way, eventually, so in college one may as well learn whatever seems most interesting.

  4. Thank you so much for answering! I’m really trying to find a pace that I can work at without sacrificing my work or my personal life- so I’m trying everything! I need to get over the inconsistency that comes from ‘writing whenever I feel like it’ and never getting anything done!

  5. Oh, man! I was going to say BH is considering a tree house for you to write in, and then I found out Kelllyrfineman beat me to it.

  6. I now have a question too!

    How do you deal with the emotional aspect of writing? I find it’s sometimes hard to separate myself from the emotions when I’ve completed a passage/chapter/whatever, and that often scares me away from trying in the first place. I know it’s probably good to get in the characters’ heads enough to feel what they’re feeling, at least to a certain degree, but how do you cope with the aftermath? How do you later put that aside–or do you?

    I’m dealing with some tough stuff in my personal life as it is, and although writing can be cathartic, it can also be frightening when it gets to the more emotional parts. As such, I’ve been tending to avoid it (although I have been inspired to do a rewrite of Paradise Lost in modern vernacular, but that’s another story).

  7. Thanks for answering my question earlier.

    I agree with you about studying what sounds interesting. I have a hard time trying to erase what my lit/english teachers in high school and college taught me when it comes to writing. An accomplished author once told me if I want to learn to write do not take a college course to do it, they would just ruin any creativity I have. His recommendation was to read as much books as I can in the styles I like, and get help from friends that know me. By the way my author friend is a retired college professor that travels all over the country giving lectures at colleges.

  8. You said that BH is “cooking up a new project” and then you mentioned the sap starting to rise in the trees. hummmmmm Would BH be thinking of starting his own maple syrup business?????

  9. Questions!

    First, I know I’m supposed to wait, but what is your process for YA?

    Two, I am also interested in the earlier question about how you deal with emotions in writing your characters. Especially in light of the subject matter of Wintergirls. Do you have fear of going there everyday? Do you ever avoid it? Thanks for the blog!

  10. Revision process?

    I’d love to hear more about your revision process. What do you do first? Do you read the whole thing front to back and make notes? Or do you delve right in chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, and start picking it apart?

  11. Great advice on college. As someone with a degree in Creative Writing, I’d like to tell whoever asked the question that all those classes didn’t help at all, but as with Amy above, it took me years to get back to writing with my own voice about the subjects that interested me.

    That’s not to say there aren’t great teachers out there, or that your experience may well be different, but you might find it interesting to look at your favorite authors and see how many studied law, medicine, science, or history instead of writing. Or if they even stayed in college at all.

    To sum up, I’ve always liked how Edward Abbey answered the same question:

    “I don’t think a college degree is necessary to become a good writer. I’m not even certain it’s an advantage. Far more important, I believe, is broad general experience: living as active a life as possible, meeting all ranks of people, plenty of travel, trying your hand at various kinds of work, keeping your eyes, ears, and mind open, remembering what you observe, reading plenty of good books, and writing every day – simply writing.”

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