“My Writing Process” Blog Hop

My son brought me a cup of water while I was writing yesterday. So thoughtful.
My son brought me a cup of water while I was writing yesterday. So thoughtful.

I am so happy to have been asked to follow Susie Orman Schnall, author of the novel On Grace, in the “My Writing Process” Blog Hop. I’m passing the torch to Colleen Oakes, author of the Elly in Bloom series and the Queen of Hearts saga, who will be posting on May 5. My job is to answer four questions about my writing. If this interests you, read on. If you are a person who prefers not to know how the sausage is made, stop here. I totally understand.

This is tricky because I write two totally different things: fiction for young adults and a column for moms. My approaches to these two kinds of writing are totally different and maybe even contradictory, so for the purposes of this hop, I’m just going to talk about my column.

What am I working on? Right now I’m working on a treatment for a children’s movie, and I’m also working on a bigger project related to my column. Vague enough for you? Sometimes you’re not quite pregnant enough to fully share.

There’s also a Disney Channel Movie being made based on my novel, A Girl Named Digit, which I’m not really working on at all. I do, however, spend a whole lot of energy worrying about it and, trust me, worrying about things over which you have no control can be a lot of work.

And, of course, I’m always working on my next article. The current one is about civility in the suburbs. I swear these articles (almost) never turn out to be quite as lame as they sound.

How does my work differ from others in its genre? Jeez, I don’t know. It’s different, but I may be too close to it to say why. It’s more of a feeling. Sometimes I read something and think that it’s similar to what I would have written, and other times I think that I would have taken it from a totally different angle. The difference is my perspective, and I can’t really say what that is.

Why do I write what I write? My intention when I sit down it write is to say something that’s true. I started writing my column for fun, just for the satisfaction of expressing myself and to burden others with my internal dialog (sorry!). What surprised me is that it had a unifying effect on my readers. I heard a lot of “Me too!” and “I’ve always thought that!” So I kept writing it.

Being a suburban mom can be a bit isolating and competitive. We all stand on the playground inquiring about each other’s kids, and we shout a chorus of “Great, great! They’re all great!” Likewise for our marriages (three times a week? Really?), our aging parents, and our mental health. We’re not lying as much as just keeping our chins up. We want to know that we’re not the only ones overwhelmed by the socks, baffled by the chronically-full dishwasher and marveling about where the day went.

If we’re all living in the same loop (wake, feed, drive, rinse, spin, fold, shop, feed, rinse, sleep), my hope is that these articles will illuminate the humor and value in that loop.

How does my writing process work? Frankly, as dysfunctional as it is, I’m surprised it works at all. I have an article due every two weeks, and it’s pretty much the same insanity every time: I finish the previous article and email it to my editor. At that very moment I decide that I am washed up, that I do not have another one in me, and that I will never, ever have another idea. I decide to wait a few days to tell her, but I am at peace with my decision to quit writing forever.

The next day I feel a bit depressed. The only way out is to start an article, but, as predicted, I don’t have an idea. I start to get nervous and eventually panicked: I really am washed up. But, really, how am I supposed to write an article when I have this birthday party to plan or when I’m sick with the flu or when my house is infested with stray socks? Invariably, I end up writing an article about the birthday party or the flu or the socks.

So I begin. I sit on my deck or in my living room (these tend to be sock-free zones) and I just type random thoughts about my topic. The writing is terrible, but I save the file and open it the next day and find that it’s gotten a little better with age. I usually find my point towards the last paragraph and move that paragraph up to the top.  Then I comb through the rest of it for more days than I’d like to admit, until it feels like the rhythm is right. Sadly, I often have to delete my favorite part, as it’s irrelevant and lumbering and only meaningful to me.

Last step: I make my kids read it to assure I didn’t say anything overly embarrassing (it’s not healthy to sleep with one eye open).  Then I send it to my husband for quality control (he’s gotten tougher over the years), and then to my sister and sometimes my oldest friend for overall vibe approval. I then send the file off to my editor and promptly decide to quit writing forever. Rinse, repeat.

 

Thank you to Susie Orman Schnall for tagging me, and to Eileen Palma, author of the novel Worth the Weight, for tagging her. We will all three be talking and selling books as part of the Moms Night Out Author Event at Athleta in Scarsdale, NY on Thursday night, May 8 from 7-9pm (more details below). RSVP to emmawestchester@gmail.com.

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