Monday, April 14, 2014

Blog Tour: The Writing Process


My friend Paula Freedman, author of the wonderful MG novel My Basmati Bat Mitzvah, invited me to participate in this blog tour about the writing process. Every author on the tour answers some questions about his or her own writing process, and then tags two other authors to answer next. I'm excited to be part of it, both because it's making me post something after way too long away from this blog, and also because I'm always fascinated by other writers' processes. You can read Paula's responses here; mine are below!

What am I currently working on?
I am almost always in the midst of multiple projects at once. I just finished final-final-final changes on my young adult novel EVIL LIBRARIAN (coming 9-9-14!), but I'm also waiting for my editor's notes on the first draft of the third book in my middle grade fantasy trilogy, working on a revision of a new picture book, and planning out the synopsis for a follow-up to EVIL LIBRARIAN. My next picture book, MARILYN'S MONSTER, comes out next spring, and my part of the work is mostly done on that oneit is being illustrated (as we speak!) by the super amazing Matt Phelan.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is a hard question. I know some of my picture books are different because they're longer than a lot of picture books out there ... but I hope that's not the only thing that makes them different! Obviously every author's work is going to be unique because of his or her individual voice, and I think that applies to my work as well. I also seem to come back to some of the same themes over and over in my books. I write a lot about friendship in various forms, and love in various forms, and also creatures (lions, dragons, demons) showing up in unexpected places. 

Why do I write what I write?
I guess I write the kinds of stories that I'd want to read. Fantasy novels were the stories that first really grabbed me as a young reader and turned me into one of those kids who carried a book around with her everywhere. Picture books appeal to me for some of the same reasonsthey're stories in which anything can happen, where the rules of everyday regular life don't necessarily have to apply. In all of my books, I'm always interested in the relationships among the characters ... who they are, why they do what they do, how they feel about one another, etc. I remember growing up and wishing I could know the characters from my favorite books in real life. I try to write those kinds of characters in my own booksif I care about them and want to spend time with them, hopefully my readers will, too!

How does my individual writing process work?
My process can vary a lot from book to book. For picture books, a story usually starts with one image or idea or feeling. I might carry that image/idea/feeling around in my head for a while before I know anything more about the story ... I'll check in on it every so often, take it out, look at it, and think about it, but sometimes I have to wait a long time before the rest of the story starts to take shape around it. Once I feel like I have enough of a sense of where the story is going (not all of it, just enough to start) I'll begin writing it down and see what happens. Often I'll make little notes in my notebook (or on whatever paper is handy at the time) as more pieces of the story start to take shape, so I won't forget.

For novels, the process could begin the same way, with an image or a feeling. For The Dragon of Trelian, I saw an image in my mind of two characters at a window in a castle. I knew they were looking out at something exciting, and that they probably weren't supposed to be there, but not much else. I started asking myself questions about them
who they were, why they were at the window, etc. The story started to take shape from there.

EVIL LIBRARIAN started with the voice of the main character. I was working on a different novel at the time, a darker, more serious fantasy (which I'm still working on, but it's been temporarily put on the back burner while I'm focusing on the other books) and Cyn's voice was funny and smart and engaging and made me want to hear more of what she had to say. I wrote the first page and a half (which mostly stayed put as the opening of the final version) and then kept coming back to it as often as I could. When I had about 70 or 80 pages, I realized I had to stop and figure out what the heck was going to happen in the rest of the book. I wrote a synopsis, and then expanded that into a longer synopsis, and eventually created a chapter-by-chapter outline of the rest of the story. That was really the first time I've ever written with an outline, and I have to say it made writing the rest of the book a lot easier! But I don't think I could start with the outline right at the beginning. I need to write a big enough piece to know the characters and the feel of the book before I can think more analytically about the structure and pacing and all the rest.

Once I have the first draft, it goes to my agent and editor. For picture books this might be the first time they see or hear of it; for novels, they've almost certainly seen some pieces of the story already. I take a breather (which sometimes just means switching over to the next project, but I do try to take at least a little bit of a break when I can!) and wait for notes from my editor. Then I start the revision process, based on her feedback and my own thoughts/notes of what I think needs reshaping (or rewriting or expanding or deleting). When the second draft is done, I might share it with one or two trusted readers, who also give me their thoughts. I usually end up doing at least three full drafts with novels. Sometimes four. And then I'm always still tweaking the text during copyediting and galleys, until my publisher makes me stop. :) Some picture books only take a couple of drafts, not including additional edits after we lay the book out into pages and I see how it starts to work together with the artwork, which often calls for at least some small changes to be made to the text. Others I end up revising over and over, twenty times, maybe more, before they really come together. And sometimes they never do, but I still have some that I haven't given up on, despite many years and drafts since I first started them. Sometimes I think it's just not the right time for a particular story, but if it's one that really speaks to me, I have to trust that I'll find the right time/approach/idea to make it work eventually!



Next up on the blog tour:

I met Rachel Wilson at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where we were both getting our MFAs in writing for children and young adults. Her debut novel, DON'T TOUCH, comes out from HarperTeen this September. When she's not writing, she makes theater in Chicago, so it's not surprising that DON'T TOUCH is full of theater (although, she says, she's not a "serious actress" like her main character). She also has a horror novelette, "The Game of Boys and Monsters," coming out as an ebook for HarperImpulse in October.



FA Michaels writes about real-world teens in not-so-real-world situations. Coming soon is a time travel tale that's part sci-fi, part mystery and part star-crossed-lovers romance. Follow Mic on Twitter @FAMichaels and read more at FAMichaels.com.

Look for their responses on their own blogs on Monday, April 21!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Win a Free Signed Book!

In a shameless attempt to rack up more Facebook likes, I'm giving away a free signed book to someone who likes my Facebook page between August 17* and August 31. To enter, click over to my page, click "Like," and then post a comment to let me know you entered (to make sure I'm able to contact you if you win!)

I'll announce the winner on September 1. Good luck!

Michelle

* Yes, I know August 17 was a week ago. :)  I announced it on Twitter, and forgot to announce it here. But it's ok - you've still got another week to enter!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Long time no post!

Hey, so what's been going on with you the past five months or so?

Here's what's been going on with me:

Big Mean Mike has been nominated for several children's choice awards, was a finalist for the Children's Book Council's Children's Choice Award, and won the 2013 Irma Black Award!

I finished a major revision of my next book, which is a dark and funny young adult novel that will be published by Candlewick Press in fall 2014. I'll share the title and other info when it's final ... stay tuned!

I have news about my next novel (the one that will come out next after the YA above) that I can't quite share yet, but I will post it as soon as I can!

I'm working on some new picture books too, but it's way too early to tell you anything about those yet. Sorry! :)

Also, I will be at a bunch of events over the next few months — please check out the list in the "book signings and events" sidebar at right. If you can come to any of those, it would be great to see you!

What else?

If you haven't yet liked my Facebook page, please do! 

And if you can't make any of my upcoming book signings but would still like a signed book, see my website for instructions for how to get one.

I hope you're having a good summer, and that 2013 has been nice to you so far. Looking forward to posting more often in the months to come and sharing more news as I can! 

M

Friday, March 15, 2013

Big Mean Mike storytime in Montclair, NJ!

I'll be reading and signing Big Mean Mike at Watchung Booksellers TOMORROW (Saturday), March 16, at 10:30am!



I would love to see you there!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Brooklyn Museum Children's Book Fair TODAY!

Come to the Brooklyn Museum Children's Book Fair TODAY from 12-4pm!

Illustration from The Little Little Girl with the Big Big Voice, by Kristen Balouch

Meet lots of Brooklyn authors and illustrators and get signed books! There will be stories and activities and other fun things for kids all day long. I'll be there signing BIG MEAN MIKE and other books  come by and say hello!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rochester Children's Book Festival!

The wonderful Rochester Children's Book Festival is happening tomorrow, November 10, at Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY! I've been going to this festival for more than a decade and it is always super fun and awesome. It runs from 10am to 4pm, and there are readings and activities and fun all day long! Talk to some amazing authors and illustrators, get some signed books, pick up free goodies (mini monster trucks! bunny pens! temporary tattoos!) and lots, lots more!

The festival is free and open to the public, and features authors and illustrators of books for children, middle graders, and teens. Click the link above for more info. I hope to see you there!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Online auction to benefit Red Cross and those affected by Hurricane Sandy



Author Kate Messner has organized Kidlit Cares, an online auction to benefit the Red Cross and people affected by Hurricane Sandy. Auction items include school skype vists with authors, manuscript critiques by authors and agents, artist portfolio critiques, writing retreats, and much more. Please scroll through to see everything being offered (note that different items have different auction end dates), and please spread the word!

Click here to read more about Kidlit Cares and to access the full list of auction items.

Click here to bid on my contribution to the auction: a picture book manuscript critique. It's Auction #22, and the deadline is November 12!