Shamefully, I wrote my previous blog post in September 2013. Not that I’ve had nothing to blog about – on the contrary, there is an ever-lengthening list of scribbled ideas in the back of my notebook. More it’s down to that common incurable condition known as the Day Job. Aka paid work, kids, procrastination … blah blah enough excuses already.
Anyway, never having been one to use my kids or job as an excuse (ahem) here’s to freeing up more time to write this year: my novel, the half-conceived short stories and new ideas that endlessly buzz away in the back of my mind, and this blog. A couple of weeks ago I was emailed by a local writer friend, Jenny Heap. She writes stories and poems for children (for which I have great admiration, as I seem to have an aversion to writing in rhyme), and short stories for adults. She wanted me to take part in the ‘Writing Process Blog Tour’, where blogging writers answer the same four questions, then pass the baton on to other blogging writers, so creating a (hopefully) long and winding chain of writing-related blogs. What better way to kick me into getting started again – thank you Jenny.
So here’s my contribution, concluding with links to the blogs of the very mixed bag of writers who will follow me.
What am I working on? I’m working on and off on a young adult novel. Right now it’s more off than on, as I keep getting distracted by different (read: shorter) forms of writing, mainly non-fiction. For example, in the past three months I’ve written two pieces for the website welldoing.org, re-worked a couple of adult short stories that I drafted over a year ago and started a picture book text in four different ways. Part of my day job involves writing teaching activities for primary-aged children, including in the last couple of months a series of creative writing workshops. I’m helping a friend edit her website, and I’m also putting together a funding application for a school library. Hence the novel is gathering whatever computer documents gather when they’re left in an electronic folder for too long.
How does my work differ from others of its genre? I’ll talk about the novel for sake of argument. It’s not dystopia, it’s not steampunk, there are no spies, fairies or vampires. There is first love, racism, violence and secrets: is there an ‘Issues’ genre?
Why do I write what I do? I started writing this particular novel when I was teaching in a Leeds primary school where most of the kids were of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin. It struck me that there wasn’t much out there featuring them, and I wanted to address that. I also wanted to draw on things that I’d observed or experienced growing up. However, after 9/11 happened the book I had started to write wouldn’t have worked, which meant I needed to do some radical re-thinking. I’ve written about this in an earlier post here.
But if this question is about why I write for young adults, I can’t really explain why. I’ve just always wanted to – perhaps because I read so many brilliant YA novels growing up (although they weren’t called that then). I also find YA titles some of the most fascinating, challenging and well-written literature around. There are some ground-breaking YA authors out there and there always have been. And one day, if I can, I’d like to be one of them!
How does my writing process work? This is how it should work: I sit down at my computer the minute I’m home from the school run, work intensely until about 2pm when I remember that I haven’t had lunch but that this is mere detail as I’ve managed to write more than 1000 words every day for months and am nearly ready to send my draft manuscript to my (currently non-existent) agent.
Here’s how it actually works: I drop the kids at school. I go for a run and think about what I’m writing. I spend a lot of time looking out of the window. I re-read chapters I’ve already written to remind myself that it’s not actually that bad and there’s still life in it. I work much more effectively when I have a deadline or a contract, and work best of all when I’m part of a writing group which requires me to have done some writing before we next meet. Yes, I was the kind of girl who always got their homework in on time.
So there we are. Hopefully you’ll be hearing a lot more from me from now on, in this blog if nowhere else. The writers I’ve got lined up for you are a contrasting lot, but all inspirational for me in different ways. They’ll be talking about their writing processes on March 24th, so be sure to go back and visit their blogs.
Becky Selman is a secondary school English teacher in London who has published articles on medieval literature and Shakespeare and two resource packs for A Level teaching. When she’s not marking essays or running on Hampstead Heath she enjoys cooking, and has just started blogging about her project to cook her way through English Literature. You can read about her experiences in her Page to Plate blog.
Emma Greenwood is the green columnist at Liberti magazine and a writer of YA fiction. Her short stories have been published by Mslexia and Cinnamon Press and she guests on a number of writing blogs. She is currently working with Imogen Cooper at The Golden Egg Academy on her Brit Grime teen novel about arson and dangerous relationships. Emma uses ‘method writing’ to channel her characters, so can often be found in her husband’s boxers, wearing baggy jeans, listening to jungle and burning things. Find out more at www.emmajgreenwood.blogspot.com.
Megan Kerr is a writer and writing teacher in Oxford. She writes in all forms and most genres, with a special love of magical realism, SFF, and literary fiction. As The Writers’ Greenhouse, she runs writing courses in Oxford and creates downloadable writing games and activities.