My Writing Process Blog Hop

*rolls out of writing cave*  *shakes off dust*  *blinks into the overly bright sun*

SleepyYes, it’s true. I’m alive. All reports to the contrary have been grossly exaggerated. I’ve just been laboring for the last six months or so to complete from scratch both a novella and a full-length novel. Mission accomplished! Both are in my editor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi hands, and I am officially writing my first blog post since I turned them in. Woo!

HighFive_TinaFeyThis post is actually part of a larger blog-hop project, which explores various writers’ writing processes. I was tagged in the blog hop by the marvelous Maria Andreu, author of the brilliant book THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY. Her post on her process is here:

Without further ado, here are my answers to the four official blog-hop questions:

1. What am I working on?

Right now I’m in between projects. I just finished the sequel to my debut novel TRUST ME, I’M LYING and have been taking a much needed break. I’ve been writing full-court press since September, and I need to absorb life for a few weeks to refill my imagination coffers before diving into the next thing. That being said, I have three-quarters of a novel waiting to be finished and revised about an evil reform school for kids with various pathologies—Disturbing Behavior meets Toy Soldiers sort of thing (gotta love those nineties references). I also have another novel idea that’s so new I’m keeping it under wraps for now. But it will be blisteringly fast-paced. (<– Psst: this is a clue.)

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like to write about bad guys being heroes. My main characters often have unsavory pasts (or presents), with plenty of mistakes they need redemption from. They’re not always easy to sympathize with, but when push comes to shove, they reveal their compassionate marshmallow underbellies.

When I was working with a web designer to redo my author site, I wrote up a description of how I see my “author brand.” It went something like this: I write about teenage delinquents saving the day, because I really dig the idea that sometimes it takes a bad guy to bring down an even badder guy. My (then current) website has a bunch of pictures I took of graffiti coloring a beautiful, burned-down building, because urban-decay-turned-street-art represents to me the attempt by the disenfranchised (which teenagers often are) to reclaim the ruins of their own lives. It’s subversive but poignant and ultimately an expression of what it means to be human, to want to leave our mark on something, even if that something is damaged and forgotten. In short, my creative focus is the plight of disaffected youth—the kids with the snarky, chip-on-the-shoulder veneer that thinly veils the pain and bravery and strength underneath.

HeartPile3. Why do I write what I do?

I’ve been sitting here for twenty minutes, digging around in my subconscious trying to ferret out my underlying motives. I was a good girl growing up. The only tagging I ever did involved chasing other kids and tapping them on the shoulder; the only hacking I ever did was when I had a really bad case of whooping cough; the only lying I ever did was on my bed with my nose stuck in a book; the only arson I ever did was…well, you get the idea.

I guess when it comes down to it, I always felt like an outsider. I was too nerdy, too gullible, too clueless, too withdrawn, too unnoticeable, too timid, too uninterested in all the things that seemed so important to my peers. So writing about petty criminals being heroes is perhaps a claiming of my less desirable parts, a rebellion against my own self-repression, as well as a wish-fulfilling historical revisionism where I take a stand for something important and prevail.

And at the end of the day, I’d hope that some kid out there feeling lonely, sin-riddled, weak, and worthless would read my stories and feel like self-acceptance is as close as simply deciding to take positive action. IDK, this is far too much deep thought for 6:30 in the morning. *drinks moar coffee*

4. How does your writing process work?

This is how my writing process works: I do whatever it takes to finish. Whatever. It. Takes. I think that’s most people’s process, to be honest, whether they break it down for you into steps or not. Process is adaptable, unique to each book, hard to pin down, and ultimately not as relevant as commitment. Commitment is everything.

But in the spirit of actually answering the question, my writing approach is less a linear process and more a grab bag of tools. My grab bag includes: brainstorming sessions with my critique partners, mind-mapping, storyboarding, Save the Cat methodology, timeline spreadsheets, Google/Wikipedia, character spreadsheets, wordcount goals, word sprints with online writer friends, playlists for plot/characterization inspiration, online thesaurus, and coffee. Lots of coffee.

When I’m stuck, I pull out a different tool and tackle the problem from a new angle. But by far the most effective tool in my arsenal is persistence. Even when I’m mired in so much self-doubt that I’m convinced all my work is complete crap, I keep working. So, yeah. That’s my process.

For those who are all “tl;dr,” here is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THIS POST:

Next on the list revealing the inner workings of their writing process are…

Clara Kensie, author of the Run To You serials, and
Liz Czukas, author of Ask Again Later.

Both are my literary-agent sisters, and I love their books dearly. <333

About Mary Elizabeth Summer

Mary Elizabeth Summer is an instructional designer, a mom, a champion of the serial comma, and a pie junkie. Oh, and she sometimes writes books about teenage delinquents saving the day. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her daughter, her partner, and her evil overlor--er, cat. TRUST ME, I'M LYING, a YA mystery, will be released by Delacorte in Fall 2014.
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4 Responses to My Writing Process Blog Hop

  1. Meg S. says:

    I really appreciate all of these insights, ME – it’s great to get a little sneak peak on both your process and your projects!

  2. Mary Elizabeth- long time no speak (waaay back to Wells), but I’m super excited to read your book when it comes out and so is my daughter (going into 6th grade) and her best friend (going into 7th). Right now the two of them are begging to enter your contest so I thank you for the entertainment, but more importantly, the interactive experience that has my daughter actually looking forward to reading a book!!!

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