Jessica Day George

Monday, October 26, 2009

This is your Writing Process. . .

Some of you may have noticed that I rarely use my blog to expound upon Ye Writerly Methodes and Modes, and hand down words of Ye Wysdome. There is a very good reason for this.

Who said I have Ye Wysdome?

I'm a writer. A published writer. This is my goal and my dream and the life which I have chosen (and been lucky enough to succeed at). However. This doesn't mean that if I tell you how I got published, the same thing will happen to you. This doesn't mean that if I tell you how I write, it will work for you. Being a published author does not qualify me to tell you anything, except how I work, and what works for me, but we're all different.

Very different.

For instance, I like Dragon Flight. I wrote it, slaved over it even, and presented it to you, the reader, when I was sure that it was the best that I could make it. Today I read a review online of Dragon Flight that was written by someone who loathed it. They found it to be almost unreadable, and would not recommend it to anyone. This person is not a professional reviewer, so normally I would ignore the review. Everyone is different, and it's well known to my friends and book club members that I have hated with a mad passion books other people love and vice versa. This review, however, inspired me to write this blog entry because the reviewer is an aspiring writer who had heard me speak at a conference. From my books (she has also read Dragon Slippers), and what I said at a conference, she analyzed my "writing process" and where it had gone off the rails, resulting in my books not being very good.


The big confession.

Several of them.

First off, I have nothing against this woman. She thinks her thoughts and has her opinions and that's all dandy.


She was wrong. What she described is not at all how I write. For one thing, she called me a "discovery" writer, because I (apparently) said I didn't outline. (By the way, I have no clue what conference this was at, so I have no idea what I may have been yakking about.) There are, in this blogger's opinion, only two types of writers. Those who outline and worldbuild first, and those who are "discovering" the story as they go along (I got the impression that she thinks of this as almost a stream-of-consciousness situation).

I can't be 100% certain, but I believe that if you interviewed 100 writers, you would find that all of them have a different writing process, rather than just falling into the Forman Outline, No Formal Outline categories.

The Biggest Confession of All.

I am not very articulate.

I know, I know, I could talk the hind legs off a tauntaun. But stick me on a panel and ask me a writing question, and I go, "Uh, I dunno." Part of it is because, well, I'm used to sitting with my little computer and writing my thoughts, deleting the ones I don't like, changing them around, pondering, changing some more things, and then posting/publishing them. So I have long suspected two things about Me At Writing Conferences: 1. I sound like a moron. 2. I am not explaining anything well.

Let me clear that right up, to the best of my ability.

I am going to tell you about My Writing Process, that you may behold it in all its beauty. Perhaps it will anger you, perhaps it will inspire you. If you, too, are a writer (and many of my blog readers seem to be), please feel free to use the comments to discuss your writing process!

Step 1. Inspiration!
An idea will come to me, whether it's a plot, like Dragon Slippers, a character like Galen in Princess of the Midnight Ball, or a setting like a little something I'm working on now but don't want to discuss! I mull this all over for a while, thinking about the characters, their stories, how it will fit together, and get a general sense of where the story will go, whether it's one book or a series, etc. This could technically be called an outline, but it's not that formal. I do make notes: character and place names, thoughts, good dialogue snippets, to make sure I don't lose anything as I sift it all together. This could take anywhere from days to years.

Step 2. Writing!
This is basically the rough draft. So when I say that I wrote Dragon Slippers in three months, this is what I mean. I didn't go back and make any changes, I just wrote it all out from beginning to end before I lost the broad thread of the story. That was the shortest time I've ever spent on a rough story, too. Some of them have taken a year, my last couple of books have been around six months each. The end product of Step 2 is not a finished book, and I would NEVER let anyone see it, not even my husband. It's like prancing around in unsexy underwear: strictly for the eyes of myself and occasionally my stuffed dragon Magne who I still talk to when I am upset. (While I'm confessing things, I thought I might go all out. . .)

Step 3. Revising!
I read back through, make changes, cut boring bits, fine tune characters and dialogue. Then I give it to my agent, and she critiques it and I fix things, and then it goes to my editor.

Step 4. Editing!
I hate step 4. My editor sends me notes. I make changes, or don't, depending on my Vision. I sweat and swear and dance around. I eat too much. I read and reread the manuscript, the editorial notes, I dither over every change. Then I send the manuscript back. My editor either suggests one or two more things, or she puts it through to the copyeditor, or Grammar Police, and then we all go over each line and consider each word and its usage until I want to start screaming.

Step 5. Behold!
A shiny new book!

This is how I roll.

So tell me:

How do YOU do that voodoo that you do so well?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Questions! Now with Answers!


It has been many moons since I updated the FAQ page. In fact, it's been almost a year! So behold, I shall answer some FAQ's here, and then add them to that page later. (By which I mean I will get my husband to do it! YAY!)

Here are some answers to recent questions I have been getting via email.

Q. Will there be a fourth book after Dragon Spear?

A. No. And also Maybe. I am finished writing about our friends Creel and Luka, but am mulling over a couple of ideas for books set in Feravel with other characters.

Q. What is the Lass's real name in Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow?

A. Hmmm, did you really read the book, or were you skimming? You can easily find it if you read the second-to-last page of the book!

Q. What does it mean?

A. I don't know. I'm not a white reindeer.

Q. What are the names of the twelve princesses in Princess of the Midnight Ball?

A. I'll give you a hint: they're all flowers! And all twelve names can be found in the second chapter, "Princess." I'll get you started: Rose, Lily, Jonquil. . . .

Q. Where and when were you born?

A. In Boise, in the 1970's.

Q. What are you working on right now?

A. I am editing the sequel to Princess of the Midnight Ball, entitled Princess of Glass. It will be out in spring of 2010!

Q. If I send you my manuscript, will you give it to your agent/editor?

A. Nope.

Q. Why not?

A. Unfortunately, I do not have time to read or critique people's manuscripts, and I would not feel honest giving a manuscript to my agent that I didn't love.

Q. Are you going on a book tour sometime soon?

A. Sadly, no. But you never know! Keep checking for events!

Q. Why won't you "friend" me on Facebook?

A. I have two Facebook pages. The regular one is just for my family and very close friends, so that I can chat about my kids and private stuff. The other is a celebrity page, where you are all welcome to become a fan. I answer questions there, post info, and all good things.

And let's finish off with a nice "Jessica Recommends!"

Jessica Recommends:

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst, Liar by Justine Larbalestier, and the Hamish Macbeth mysteries by M.C. Beaton. Boy recommends the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems, and Baby Girl recommends Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Presenting Julie Wright!

Gentle readers, I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine: Julie Wright. Many of you, because you are avid and discerning readers, will be familiar with Julie's books, but for those of you who aren't . . . she is fabulous! Her book, My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life is absolutely amazing. A tender, funny, romantic, and inspiring story about a young woman coming out of a terrible childhood and a misspent youth to make something of herself. Along the way she has to make one of the most difficult decisions you can make in life, and Julie handles it all with a light, beautiful hand.

Her latest book, Eyes Like Mine, is about . . . well, lots of things. The pioneers crossing the plains to settle in Utah. A young girl who is bitter over her parents' divorce and the drastic changes it brings to her family. And time travel.


Time travel.

It's freakin' awesome, and I couldn't put it down. And I said to myself (when I could finally put it down), "Jess, you oughta interview Julie. Because this book was awesome, and she's freakin' hilarious. And cool."

And so some questions (and answers!) with Julie Wright!

1. Usually when I think of the Mormon pioneers crossing the plains to Utah, I think of heat and dust and cholera and dried beef and dead mules. Never before have I thought, Hey! And time travel! Where did the inspiration for this book come from?

It actually came one day while driving down the road. We live in Utah. Driving anywhere in Utah means you will deal with construction. I was whining about the conditions of the road and feeling a wee bit ungrateful in general. I popped in a Jenny Phillips CD and had a moment of introspection. I hate those moments. But this particular one made me think about my own pioneer ancestors and how they would laugh at me for whining about road construction when I was sitting in an air-conditioned car, drinking an ice cold Dr. Pepper and snacking on chips while waiting for traffic to clear. Yeah. Total hardship. I wondered, if my ancestors could see me, what might they have to say about my attitude? And the book just sort of came to me from that. I went home that night and wrote the first few chapters.

2. Your two main characters are both young and female, yet their personalities and situations are so vastly different, and you made their voices quite distinct. Did you have a hard time switching between them? Did you prefer writing one to the other?

I didn’t have too hard a time switching back and forth because they were both so different in my mind. I knew their personalities and knew what their motivations and goals were. I genuinely enjoyed Constance. I love the way the gentry of England speak and had a good time incorporating that into the story. And because the angst Constance felt was a little more justified than the angst of a spoiled contemporary girl, I felt more kinship to Constance.

3. Liz rides and jumps her horse competitively. Do you have any background with horses?

I live in the country . . . seriously. THE country. The kind where the livestock population is a hundred times that of the human population. And there’s dust and heat, dried beef, dead mules and—oh, wait, what was the question? Living in the country requires me to be around horses a lot, but I am FROM the city, so I don’t know much about them. In order to write this book, I had to spend some time at my neighbors, learning to ride and care for horses. It was great fun. But wow. Those animals are a ton of work.

4. You speak Swedish. Say something Swedish!

Did you hear it? Maybe I should say it louder. Did you get it that time? Oh, you mean *write* something Swedish. Ja, vet jag vad du vill at jag ska göra, men jag är roligt i alla fall. Jag älskar allting som du skrivet. Du är snillrik! Och Dashner har ett stor huvud. But don’t tell him I said so.

5. You and your husband own a small general store. If I owned a store, I would only carry books that I liked and/or wanted to read, chocolate, licorice, Dr. Pepper, and Cheetos. Did you open the store so that you could have an endless supply of treats? Be honest.

We opened the store because we wanted to live in the middle of nowhere and finding a job in the middle of nowhere is TOUGH. So we bought ourselves a job. It’s been interesting. I don’t regret it even though sometimes I act like a bitter shop keeper. Lots of good things have happened in my life due to the store. And hey, if I want ice cream at two in the morning, I know where the keys are kept.

6. What is your publication story?

Convoluted. I started writing my first book when I was fifteen. I finished it at the age of 24 and then left it on my computer for several years because I am a coward like that. I finally starting submitting at the encouragement (whip cracking?) of my husband and after three rejection letters got a contract offer. I stumbled through the first publication and the publication of my second novel and then realized those first two books were pretty poorly written and I ought to try a little harder. Book three, My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life, was much better written and, oddly enough, ended up being rejected by my then-current publisher. They said it was too dark. So I submitted with a bigger publisher and they published it for me instead. That rejection form a small publisher was the best thing to have ever happened to me even if it felt really horrible at the time. I’ve been able to grow and stretch as a writer in ways I never imagined. I hope to keep growing and stretching and improving as I get older.

7. Favorite books? (Try to keep the list to a reasonable length. Say, fifteen.)

To Kill A Mockingbird, Dune, Princess Bride, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Wheel of Time, Princess of the Midnight Ball, Ender’s Game, Hunger Games, Percy Jackson Series, Witch of Blackbird Pond, Pride and Prejudice, Poisonwood Bible, Les Miserables, Harry Potter, Oh! The Places You’ll Go!

I eagerly await all books written By Jessica Day George, Janette Rallison, and Josi Kilpack—something about those J names . . .

8. What are you reading right now?

Right now I am writing. I reward myself for finishing a new manuscript by reading. Soooo on my to-read-next-shelf is: Catching Fire, and Poison Study

9. What are you going to read next?

Catching Fire. I am so excited to read it, I can barely contain myself. It is my carrot dangling in front of me when I don’t feel like writing. I don’t get to read it until I’m done with this manuscript.

10. Favorite movies?

A&E Pride and Prejudice, The Tenth Kingdom, Meet Joe Black, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Love Actually and a ton of others.

11. Care to hint about the book you're working on right now?

I am writing a book called Spell Check. It’s a fun, YA fantasy about a girl who discovers she’s a witch on her sixteenth birthday. I have laughed a lot while writing this book. The first line? It’s a little known fact that witches are still alive and well in Salem Massachusetts. They call themselves cheerleaders.

12. You once told me the freaky-awesomest idea you had for a book involving a dream journal. Are you working on that story right now? If not, then SNAP TO IT!

Bossy much? Just kidding. It is third down on my list. So I am working on Spell Check right now, then I will be writing the Skinny Woman book we talked about over ice cream last month and the freaky awesome dream journal book is next. I should have it done by next October. The writing schedule can change based on editor’s commands. I am more than happy to switch things around if my editor said they wanted something else sooner.

Thanks, Julie! (By the way, blatantly flattering the interviewer by mentioning her books is . . . a nice touch! Also, the Skinny Woman book idea is a HOOT and I cannot wait for that one either.)

(Also, the first line of Spell Check rocks.)

And now, my gentle readers, go forth and read ye some Julie Wright!