Saturday, August 23, 2008

Some of the Writing Questions

I am away at the Land of Make Believe (I kid you not -- my daughter's tenth birthday is this Monday, and she gets to pick the weekend trip), so I am sharing my Amazon blog here so I can go down water slides and disregard the laws of physics.

In June, I agreed to answer the questions of a junior/senior creative writing class, and I decided to do it as a blog. Be back Monday.

Ok, because the Summer Reading Project is due on September 3, I have taken a group of submitted questions related to writing and I will answer them in two mock interviews. This is the first one.
If you have a question you don't see here, I will answer it before the end of August (at the latest). I still have about six more questions on this.
And thanks for these -- some of the questions actually made me think more deeply about the whole process of writing.

Where do you get your ideas?

The idea for a novel usually germinates from a small scrap of information: it could be a scent in a coffee shop that reminds me of when I first started college, or of a friend's house, and a weird kind of association begins. A few days later, I'll remember that scent, or the particular way a tree looked in the yard, or a few words someone said to me, and a character kind of "appears" - I don't know anything about the character. Yet. I don't force anything. Little by little I begin to see the character more fully. So, to answer another question, it's not from thinking of one specific problem or conflict. It's much more from a character.

Do you have a writing schedule?

God no. I have three kids, five animals, a part time job, and a big house that's not fully unpacked from last year. It's more like I grab a few minutes here and there to work on a scene. Most of my writing time is granted through insomnia.

Do you write from drafts and revise?

Sort of. When I have down time, like waiting at my daughter's dance class or when everyone is still asleep, I write notes about the story I'm working on. Remember when your English teacher freaked about sentence fragments? That's what I use. The notes will say -- "S. goes nuts b/c no friends call." Of course, sometimes I look at these notes a day or two later and say, "What on earth did I mean by this? And who's S?"

Do you consider yourself a serious writer?

Yup. Absolutely. I kid around a lot, but in spite of a really busy life, I always manage to write because it's really important.

Why did you pick YA as your genre?

Because I, like thousands of adults, am still secretly in recovery from all the damage middle school inflicts. I can revisit that time in life and change everything.

Are you working on a new book? Is it YA also?

Yes and yes.

Do you want to write a book that is not YA?

I am also working on a middle grade/tween novel.

Some writers say that dialog is the hardest thing to write. Do you agree?

For me, dialog is pretty easy. I live with and work with teenagers so I hear my characters' dialog all the time. What is hard for me is to keep track of the scenes because I sometimes write them out of order. I have to make sure everything goes together seamlessly so it's not snowing in the beginning of chapter six and they end up at the beach two days later. That would probably be noticed by readers.

What is the most memorable thing anyone ever said to you about The Shape of Water?

It seems that I am getting more and more email about this book each day, so this might change, but it had to be from a lady who called herself "A Mom" -- she wrote that she had purchased the book due to its "pretty name and lovely cover" and she did not realize the book was about an arsonist.
Now, Magda is attracted to fire, and yes, she does set a few, but an arsonist has a sinister implication that I think is too weighty for a fifteen year old girl. Anyway, this lady went on and on about how awful it was that I wrote about an arsonist and made her my main character. She went on to say what a terrible example I was setting for teenagers.
And here's the thing: my dad really was a New York City fireman, and I heard about teenage arsonists all the time. It's not like me writing about teen arson CREATES arson. It's been around forever, and it probably will be around forever. Books have to reflect what we do as human beings.
That was a pretty weird rant, but I must say, most people write lovely things.


Marcia said...

I love hearing other writers' answers to those common questions. Nice job at handling the idea one especially. It can be so hard to explain.

Creative Writing said...

I love hearing your answers for these common questions. Nice job at handling the idea one especially. It can be so hard to explain. One thing i like most that you are vary serious about your writing. Many time it happens that writers fad up from their work and don't give time to writing.

Anne Spollen said...

I know, Marcia, that's a tough one to answer and it's probably the one I (and every other writer on the planet) gets asked the most.
It's hard because I don't really understand the process myself: it just happens.

And Creative Writing, thanks for stopping by! I would love to devote more time to writing, but right now my life is really busy. I get fed up with being busy, but never with writing.