What am I working on?
I'm currently finishing Alice-Miranda At Camp, which is another mysterious adventure of epic proportions. I'm right in the midst of its epic-ness at the moment with about 10,000 words to go - so if this blog post makes no sense it's because I've been at my computer since 7am and it's now 9.45pm and I've been writing for about 14 hours. I'm just reaching that point where I tend to gallop towards the finish (which needs to happen because the deadline is looming so large there is a permanent shadow cast across my desk), but then I'll go back and read it through many times and likely make lots of changes before it goes to my publisher. I just can't take too long about it though because I am about to go on tour to publicise Alice-Miranda In Japan and then I have to start Clementine Rose's 7th story which I haven't yet decided on the title for and am still really nutting out in terms of the plot. Fortunately I'm already good friends with all the characters so at least I know who's in the story. Clementine Rose and the Treasure Box is about to come back from my editor so that will mean another round of changes from me too. It's the 6th book in the series. Clementine Rose and the Seaside Escape has just landed from the printers and will be in the shops on the 1st April (that's not a joke).
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My books are character driven with lots of interesting mysteries for the children to solve. I think it's really important for the readers to feel something for the characters - you know, to love the good guys and hate the baddies. In the 10th book I've created a new student at Alice-Miranda's school who is just about the most evil piece of work you're ever likely to come across, but I'm enjoying having her in the story because she makes me so cross. I'm also a big fan of interesting settings be they boarding school, big cities like Paris and New York, holiday destinations, hotels, villages and home. I have a broad range of characters in terms of their ages too. Alice-Miranda has friends who are very young and very old and that's important to me. When I'm thinking about the plot, it's a bit like giving ten kittens ten balls of string and chasing them all over the house. End result is lots of knots. The plot really comes down to how I can create those knots and then untangle them at the end so it all makes sense.
Why do I write what I do?
I was a teacher for almost twenty years and I have spent my entire adult life working in schools. In some ways I've never truly grown up. In my head when I write I'm usually about nine years old. I think it's important to remember what it was like to be a child - the wonder of new things, navigating the mysteries of friendships and relationships, exploring the world. I've always loved to tell stories too - it's a bit of a compulsion and I adore kids.
How does your writing process work?
I'm a planner. I need to plan the big ideas and I like to know where my end destination is. That said, I don't bore myself stupid by plotting every last detail so that I have no room for surprises but I do find, especially as my deadlines are tight and I write a lot, that having a plan guides me and enables me to work more quickly. I edit as I go, usually writing a couple of chapters at a time then going back to check over them and make changes.
I think sometimes writing books must be a bit like having a baby (I've never had a baby so this is mere supposition based on the fact that my sister is having her fourth child shortly and I talk to her pretty much every day and let me tell you - some days are golden, others not so much!). The process of growing the baby seems to vary daily from piece of cake to piece of work! There are days when the baby moves around a lot and kicks the living daylights out of her and other times when she feels as if she can achieve anything. Of course towards the end there is more pain (the birth) and then when that little bundle arrives, all is forgiven and everyone's in love.
I tend to forget the pain of previous books when I'm starting a new one and then I just get going, and a character, the plot or even a single scene gives me a good sharp kick in the ribs to remind me that although the journey might not always be easy, it's worth it for the end result.
I've invited two of my lovely writer friends, Tania McCartney and Krista Bell to continue the Writing Process Blog next week. Have fun ladies!
Tania McCartney writes books for both children and adults. An experienced magazine writer and editor, she has been writing professionally (print and online) for over 25 years, and in 2009, founded Kids’ Book Review, a highly respected children’s literature site. Tania has many years’ experience in book design and publishing, and has quite the picture book obsession. An Ambassador for the National Year of Reading (2012), she is passionate about literacy, and can occasionally be seen pushing books onto unsuspecting shoppers in bookshops. Or travelling. Or drinking coffee. Always with a book.
Krista Bell is an award-winning Australian author of twenty six books for young readers aged four to fourteen who travels nationwide giving talks and conducting writing workshops for children and adults. She has been an on-air ABC Radio children’s book reviewer for over twenty ﬁve years and loves the challenge.