Monday, September 8, 2014

Why do I write? Come join me on a blog hop to find out!

I was very excited to be invited recently to take part in my very first blog hop by Mimi Vance, another Houstonian author.  In case you hadn't come across it either, a blog hop is a virtual equivalent of a chain letter, though far less threatening. Just as well, really.

Mimi is a language specialist and writes gorgeous picture books about baby-signing. Her new website and blog at is full of great information about how you can open up the world of communication to your baby long before he or she is old enough to talk. 

Baby signing is something close to my heart since I used to sign when my twins, who are now 13, were little. You can read more about that, and even see pictures of my twins signing, on my blog here.

Mimi's blog hop post on her own website is HERE, and having done it herself, she set me and our friend Chris Cander, a few questions to answer about our writing.  So here goes with my reply:

What am I working on?
Right now, I am madly spinning a number of writing plates, trying to keep them all from smashing down around me.

I am almost to the end of major revisions to my Young Adult novel, Never Met, Never Parted, which is set in Scotland at the end of World War Two.  It’s about Lorna, a farmer’s daughter with two older brothers away in the army.  When a German prisoner-of-war begins work on the farm as a farmhand and shepherd, Lorna discovers that in wartime, your family and your allies might not be your real friends, and your enemy might just turn out to be the love of your life.

I received some valuable feedback on the opening chapters and the synopsis from a New York editor earlier this year and she particularly suggested that I strengthen Lorna’s voice and her relationship with her those around her.  It has taken me a few months to sort Lorna out, but I feel like I now know her so much better than I did when I finished the previous draft, and I hope that will be reflected in how the reader connects with Lorna too. 

I am also getting back to blogging at, about my writing, reading and research, and about things which interest me.  I haven’t posted much on there over the last year because I have been too busy interviewing inspiring women for my Inspiring Houston Women blog. I took a break on that blog over the summer, but hope to post the next interview before the end of September.

And if all that wasn’t enough, I am also going back to my first writing love – non-fiction articles for magazines and newspapers.  This was something I did a lot of when I lived in the UK, but I have been concentrating more on writing fiction since I arrived in Texas.  I have so many ideas for interesting articles, now I just have to find an editor or two who will let me write them.

Why do I write?
For the buzz! I get the biggest thrill when I am writing, when words are flying round my brain in random patterns before crashing onto the page in some semblance of order.  It’s the thrill that comes from finding just the right word, or creating just the perfect phrase to capture the image in your head so that others can share it. It comes from hearing a character’s voice so clearly in your head that all you have to do is take down what they say as dictation and put quote marks around it.  It comes from planning in detail a scene where two people are standing talking to each other in a farmyard, only to find that when you start writing it that a delivery boy suddenly appears up the road on his bike. He’s uninvited and unexpected, but he takes the whole story down a wonderful path which you would never have found without his help.

I can get that same thrill from reading a really good book, and the two are undoubtedly connected. I love to write because I love to read, and I love to see others love to read too.

How does my writing differ from others of its genre?
I don’t think I really want to be different from other writers. Of course, I want to create my own unique characters, plots, dialogue, and settings, but really, I work hard to be just like those writers whose books I love to read. I want to fascinate and inspire readers just like they do, I want to thrill and to move, to interest and to educate my readers in just the way those wonderful authors have for me.  So while I hope no one will ever accuse my writing of being formulaic, familiar or just plain dull, I do want people to say that my writing has connected with them just like the other writers that they love.

How does my writing process work?
Where do I write? I’d like to tell you how organized and disciplined I am about sitting down in a peaceful office at a tidy desk where I can write to a set daily word count.  But in reality, most of my writing is done in the buzz of Barnes and Noble café in whatever hours each week I can grab. I often go to our local Starbucks at 6am on a Sunday morning, so I can get a good three or four hours’ work done before my household gets going for the day. Although Starbucks is always deserted when I arrive at that time of the morning, I have often found that I get so focused on what I am writing, I can look up suddenly and discover that the place is packed and its 9am.

How do I write? I am most certainly a planner and not a pantser (a writer who likes to fly by the seat of his or her pants, with no plot plan as a guide). With both my novels, I have not started writing until I have created a full chapter breakdown of the story and rough character sketches of the main players. I might not know how my character navigates his way through a scene, but I must know where he needs to get to by the end.

Even with this kind of detailed planning, however, sometimes I have reached a fork in my plot road and haven’t known exactly which way to go. Just recently I wrote a conversation which was interrupted by a knock at the door. I discovered that I didn’t know who was knocking (I know that might sound weird, given that I was in charge of the knocking!) It could have been one of two people but I wasn’t sure which it should be and I felt rather panicked.  I could see a rough path which would take me from each person through to the next chapter where I needed to be, but I just couldn’t take that first step on one path by typing the name of one person standing on the doorstep. It took me two days of fiddling around with another part of the manuscript, letting my mind wrestle with my door-knocker dilemma, before I could go back and type that name.

I’ve spent most of this year revising one of my novels, rather than writing something new. And that has introduced me a whole new learning curve. Letting someone else read your novel (a friend, or a professional service, or getting a critique done at a conference) can give you some very useful feedback on what still needs to be done to make your plot, your characters and your setting shine.  But it is daunting to stand over perfect piece of literature with a big carving knife in your hand. This is something you have tweaked and polished over weeks, months or even years, and now you are expected to hack it to bits, rip out some bits of gorgeous writing, or think up new bits to push the pace or fill out a personality? That, to me, is so much harder than writing on a blank page.  But as a friend of mine once told me, “being a published writer is less about being good at writing, and more about being good at revising.”

And so the revision continues, and fingers crossed that the published writer bit comes soon.

So who is blog-hopping next?
I’d like to introduce you to two wonderful writers, two all-round amazing women, and open the door for you to their lovely blogs.

Melissa Buron has for the past twenty-one years worked as an author, librarian and teacher in Africa, Europe and the United States.  She is, like me, a member of Houston’s chapter of the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators.  I met Melissa at my first visit to an SCBWI conference two years ago and she was immediately welcoming and encouraging, had friended me on Facebook within the hour and made sure I was introduced to other useful people. Since then, I have followed her excellent blog on which she posts details of her writing process as well as interviews with other writers.

If her work as an author and educator wasn’t enough, in January 2014, Melissa launched MAB Media, an indie publishing company that specializes in high-quality trade fiction and literary non-fiction. MAB Media will release its first books in Summer 2015.

You can follow Melissa on her personal blog at And for more information on Melissa’s publishing work, you can check-out the website at, follow MAB Media on Twitter, or “like” MAB’s Facebook page. 

 Bethany Hegedus holds the key to stay in paradise – for me and numerous other Texas writers, anyway. As well as being author to a string of books, Bethany is the owner and creative director of The Writing Barn, the most gorgeous space for writing retreats, workshops and book-related events in Austin, Texas.  I won a weekend retreat there in an auction last year and frankly, I could have easily and very happily, stayed a week. No, a month!

When I stayed with her at the Barn at the end of 2013, Bethany was gearing up for the publication of her first picture book, the beautifully written and illustrated Grandfather Gandhi.  Bethany co-authored the story with Arun Gandhi, grandson of the Mahatma, and it was illustrated by Evan Turk.

Bethany’s other books include Truth with a Capital T and Between Us Baxters and she has served as the Young Adult & Children’s Editor of the literary journal, Hunger Mountain, since 2009. A graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults and a former educator, Bethany speaks and teaches across the country.

You can follow Bethany on her personal blog at and please do visit her at The Writing Barn, online at or even better, in person!

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'd love you to leave a comment, but please remember to be considerate of other people's feelings.