My Writing Process Blog Hop

This is a delightful blog hop that’s making the rounds right now, and I was tagged a few times by some lovely people.

Jenny Perinovic, part of my TGNA family, first tagged me in this blog hop and I accepted her challenge,

then my fellow SCBWI Oklahoma friend, Sonia Gensler tagged me and finally,

Jadyn Knight one of my #writemotivation peeps added me to her chosen few.

Thank you all for including me in this fun challenge.

Pic From Unsplash by Sonja Langford
Pic From Unsplash by Sonja Langford

So here we go:

1. What am I working on? I am revising two completed manuscripts at the moment. One is INSTITUTIONALIZED, a YA contemporary novel about a teen who gets admitted to Whispering Sands under false pretenses and must navigate the unfamiliar world of deviants and sociopaths by pretending to be crazy so she can get out in time to save her sister from the real psycho in the family. The other is NIGHT OF THE MUSEUM CRASHERS, a Middle Grade Mystery about a boy who stumbles upon a crime in process – thieves swapping out paintings with fakes. But when the police arrive, there’s no trace of foul play; no one believes him. He decides to solve the crime himself and prove he was right.    

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? With the contemporary YA story, the twist is that the main character isn’t mentally ill, or at least she doesn’t think she has any reason to be locked up. In my Middle Grade story, my character is afraid of everything in the beginning – not exactly the dashing adventurous type that relishes the idea of solving mysteries. He’s thought of as mentally unbalanced – fragile, even, by the adults. That’s kind of an anti-hero for mystery stories. I do seem to be fascinated with the inner workings of my characters’ lives and I do like them damaged; they all seem to need therapy. Read into that what you will.

3. Why do I write what I do? Books meant everything to me as a kid. While some let my imagination soar, some helped me navigate the awkward world of puberty without always having to ask my single dad embarrassing questions. (I know I’m not the only one who owes a heap of gratitude to the amazing Judy Blume.) Writing stories that shed light on difficult issues and let someone else not feel so weird about themselves, like they could be the hero of their own story or even help someone else understand what a different way of life may be like – I don’t know, I just like exploring ideas that spark conversation. 

4. How does my writing process work? I’ve discovered this fabulous new word recently – “planster”. I’m not quite and pantser or a planner, but a planster. And a binge planster at that. I don’t write every day, but even on the days I’m not writing, I do spend a good chunk of time mulling over my stories or thinking about my characters. I spend a lot of time in my own head. Once I do sit down to write, everything else falls away. Distractions like food, people, time all get filtered out. Before I know it, I’ve been writing for hours on end, the sun has disappeared, and my family has written me off as lost for the day. I find myself surrounded by discarded drinks and food items scattered about as offerings to the enthralled author-who-could-not-be-disturbed. This is one of the many ways they love me and my crazy writerly self.

As far as the actual writing of the story process, for me, the situation and the character always come first. An idea pops into my head while having a discussion with a friend or while reading an article or listening to an interview on the radio. I may jot it down so I don’t forget it, or I may just mull it over in my head for a few days. If it sticks in my brain and I can’t stop thinking about it, I begin to play around with it, with the character, and see if this could be something worth pursuing. I start writing some pages. And more pages. Once I get into the story and realize it has teeth, I may sketch out a bell curve outline of major plot points or scenes I want to include. That’s probably as much outlining as I’ll do, with the exception of the mystery story. I did have to outline more to keep track of clues and red herrings, there. For that story, I did a chapter by chapter outline after I knew the story would work and where the story was going.

I try not to revise while writing the first draft, but I do start a page or two back from where I started the day before and I may tinker a bit with things before moving forward. I’m trying to allow myself to write those messy first drafts and wait for revising until I get to the end of the first draft. I do love revising. I know my work only gets better the more I do it. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to stop revising. Probably when the next exciting idea calls to me.

I haven’t tagged anybody for this blog hop as most of the people I would tag have already been tagged, so if you’d like to share your writing process feel free to join in the fun. I have enjoyed reading about everyone’s process. One thing I have gleaned from all of the different stories is that there is no right or wrong way to write, only that you do it.

So here’s to all of you, trudging through your revisions and first drafts, battling your demons of self-doubt. Remember that perseverance is key.

Keep writing!

 

A Scavenger Hunt YA Book Lovers Should Enjoy

Do you like scavenger hunts? Do you love YA novels and love learning about new authors and their latest projects and getting to read bonus material from their latest projects? What about possibly winning lots and lots of books? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Or rather, I’m here to point you in the direction of the right place. The latest YA Scavenger Hunt , the brain child of author Colleen Houck, is off and running with a deadline to enter of April 7th. From the official website, here’s a description of what this hunt is all about:

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“The YA Scavenger Hunt is a biannual online event that promotes collaboration between YA authors from different publishing houses, offering fans an opportunity to see the latest and greatest in young adult literature. During the hunt, we showcase exclusive bonus material, give readers access to top secret insider information, and offer fabulous prizes and giveaways for zealous YA fans.”

I’ve already got half of my first list completed, so you’d better get started if you want to have a chance to enter! Click on the site for details on how to play. Follow the action on Twitter at #YASH.

Enjoy!

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop Stops By

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Welcome to the NEXT BIG THING Blog Hop.

What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way for readers to discover authors new to them. I hope you’ll find new-to-you authors whose works you enjoy. On this stop on the blog hop, you’ll find a bit of information on me and one of my books and links to other authors you can explore!

My gratitude to fellow author, Michelle Pierce, for inviting me to participate in this event. You can click the following links to learn more about her at The Barenaked Critic.

In this blog hop, my fellow authors and I, in our respective blogs, have answered ten questions about our current book or work-in-progress (giving you a sneak peek). We’ve also included some behind-the-scenes information about how and why we write what we write–the characters, inspirations, plotting and other choices we make. I hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing!

1: What is the working title of your book?

Institutionalized: I’m not Crazy

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

While in college, I worked as a mental health tech with adolescents at a psychiatric treatment center. Once there was this young girl who came in, very calm and poised, from a local small town where her father was an important business man. She claimed from day one that she didn’t need to be there – that there was nothing wrong with her. Well, she seemed so sincere and she wasn’t violent or defiant with her peers or any of the staff; nothing on the surface pointed to her needing to be there. It really made some of us wonder if maybe she was telling the truth…at least for the first few days. Then the honeymoon was over. It still got me thinking about what it would be like for someone to be locked up inside who didn’t need to be there. Apparently that thought stuck with me.

3: What genre does your book come under?

Contemporary Young Adult

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Ugh! This is always such a difficult thing for me to even wrap my head around. I ‘d have to lean toward Jennifer Lawrence playing the main Winters Bonecharacter, Sara, but not so much for her role in the Hunger Game – although she looks more the part in that one, physically. I thought she was great in that, don’t get me wrong, but she was just stunning and raw in Winter’s Bone.

I don’t even want to talk about what a mortifying thing it was trying to do a search for images of a male lead to play Matt, the love interest – yes, there can be love in the psych ward. Every option I even considered, when I’d look closer at them, I’d say, “Geez, he’s so much older than I thought” – don’t know what that says about me or our culture, not in the mood to tackle it. I decided to settle on a more busted version of Zac Effron, one who’s lived a little more, had life beat him up a bit. He’s just too damn…I don’t know, Disney?

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Sara Peterson, a 16 year-old girl admitted to Whispering Sands under false pretenses, has to navigate the unfamiliar and often violent world of true deviants and sociopaths by pretending to be one so she can get back home in time to save her sister from the real psycho in the family.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

I hope to have my book represented by an agency. It is currently with an agent who requested the full manuscript at the SCBWI LA Summer Conference last August.

*fingers crossed*

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It took about a year and a half to get a complete draft, although the book was mostly finished long before that. I just couldn’t stop editing as I went along. From the very beginning idea – to writing those first ten pages to this last revision – it’s been about three years.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

There are some great books set within an institutional setting that I would recommend, although mine obviously has that different slant with the sane person trapped inside. (I won’t mention the ones that got things so wrong they were laughable.) 

Funny StoryI enjoyed It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. His book is about Craig, a high-school junior in the gifted program whose infatuated with his best friend’s girl. When he realizes he’s suicidal, he checks himself into the psychiatric ward of a hospital, thinking they’ll do an observation, help him, and send him home in time for school the next day. Once in, however, he must stay for a week; the juvenile ward is being renovated, so he’s in with adults as well as a few youths. (Plot summary from IMDb.) Vizzini gives Craig a much calmer, less violent experience when he lets him stay on the adult unit, but his inner struggles and pain experienced in the book are no less complicated.impulseCvr

Another great book is Impulse by Ellen Hopkins. Impulse is about is the story of three young people whose lives intersect in a psych hospital, after separate attempted suicides. It is about the things that brought them there, but more about the bond that forms between them. (summary from author’s website.) Hopkins always has such a great connection with characters and emotion. I love her. I also think that you must read her books in hardcopy. The way her poems are laid out add to her work and it just doesn’t translate well in electronic form.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I have some very personal reasons for writing this story. It really had to be told. Seriously. The main character actually started shouting in my head – interrupting a perfectly good story I was already working on – demanding that I start telling her story instead.

So I did.

There were so many girls who came through the doors of the treatment center that broke my heart and toughened my skin to what this world sometimes holds for us, even for the young. I’ve thought about many of them over the years and hoped they made it through okay, although the odds were not in their favor.

And though this story is NOT about any of them directly, it was definitely inspired by many of them and by others closer to me.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Maybe a sample of the first few pages? These are new and no one except my family – not even my critique group – has seen them. 

CAUTION: There is some strong language – this is a young adult excerpt, after all.

Before

“I am so going to that dance! Could Dad be any more controlling?” I stormed into my sister’s room. She had better lighting and a bigger closet to raid. I headed into its depths to hunt down the most rebellious dress I could find.

“C’mon, Sara, do you have to do this?” Sam’s voice came muffled and weak from behind. “You know he’s going to be pissed.”

I popped my head out and smiled. “Only if he finds out and you’re going to cover for me.”

“Uhhh…”

“It’ll be easy.” I flipped through the hangers; all of the colors smashed together, everything smelling like Sam’s vanilla body spray. “You just tell him I’ve gone to bed early, pouting and not talking to him because he’s such an asshole –.”

“Sara!”

“Okay, you don’t have to tell him those exact words. You always know what to say to him. He listens to you. Me, not so much.” I held up a red, low cut dress. Sam shook her head.

“That would fall right off you and it’s the wrong color,” she said.

“Ouch.” I tossed the dress at her and dove back into the closet. “Wrong color”. I muttered under my breath wiped sweat off my upper lip. Like Sam ever had to worry about anything being the wrong color or falling off her perfect form. Sometimes it was hard being the lanky, athletic one. I dug deeper, passing the long-sleeved conservative numbers. Sam had to have something that would fit me and make me look just a bit dangerous. This was my one night of breaking the rules; I wanted to go all the way.

“Maybe…maybe you shouldn’t go,” Sam said. She was standing right behind me in the closet, rubbing her arms like it was cold. “Do you even know this Dylan kid?”

 “Ha! You sound just like Dad. Wait …you didn’t say anything –.”

“I-I didn’t. It’s just…”

“Jesus, Sam. You’re always telling me to be strong, independent, to stand up for myself – to everyone but Dad.”

“You know how he is – very stubborn, like someone else I know.” Sam handed me a delicate lavender dress with fluffy toile, not dangerous, but pretty. “Try this one.”

“Umm, thanks.”

 “Hey, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something.” Sam was sitting on the edge of her bed.

“Yeah?” I stood in front of her full-length mirror, holding up the dress. I hated to say it, but it looked really nice. I twisted and piled my wavy black hair on my head with my free hand, imagining it an up-do sculpture of fabulousness and not it’s usual tangled mess. “Hand me some bobby pins.” I reached my hand out.

She tossed me some bobby pins and then sat back down. “I, uh…shit.” Her hands twisted in her lap.

“Jesus, it’s not about using condoms again, is it? I told you if you kept bringing that crap up – slipping them in my purse, demoing proper use on the bananas, can’t eat them for breakfast without laughing, thanks! – I was going to become a lesbian.”

 “Shut up!” Sam threw several pillows at me, laughing.

I tossed the dress aside and retaliated. Then dismissed the fluffy pillows in favor of my favorite Sam torture and grabbed her just above the knee – the most ticklish spot.

“Damn it, Sara, quit!” Man, could she buck and fight when she wanted to. Elbow to the jaw, pow! I shook my head.

“Who’s the strongest?” I grabbed for her knee again.

“Oh, my God, you are Miss Psychopath, now get off!” Sam went limp.

Victory.

“Ugh, it’s freakin hot.” I turned on her ceiling fan and flopped down on the bed next to Sam. Sweat ran down through my hairline and into my eyebrows. I’d have to take another shower before the dance. “Here, let me share.” I ran my hand across my forehead and then wiped the sweat on Sam’s leg.

“Gah! You’re so nasty.” She threw her arm over me and squished me into a Sam hug. I missed this closeness. No one ever hugged me when she was gone, forget snuggling. Sam nudged my shoulder.

“Just…take care of yourself when I’m at school, okay?”

So there you have it! Half of the first chapter of Institutionalized: I’m not Crazy.

Let me know what you think! And be sure to visit my fellow blog hoppers next week.

And now to pass on the gauntlet.

Below you will find authors who will be joining me virtually, via blog, next Wednesday. Please be sure to bookmark their sites, and add them to your calendars for updates on their upcoming books!

Happy Writing and Reading!

Stephanie Theban is one of my fantastic critique partners and she has a lovely blog at stories. read em. write em.

William Sells is a brand new writer friend who has a blog on his Goodreads author page.

And a late addition to the blog hop, but no less important, the ever fantastic Ms Cricket Muse! Please make sure you check out her site as well.

I can’t wait to see what these fantastic folks have to share with us next week.