seven writerly secrets

IMG_5762 1. Everybody has their own speed. I prefer slow and steady. My OCD brain likes to chew on words. I can spend hours erasing sentences and starting all over. Sometimes the words "glow" or make sounds in my head. That's when I know I've picked the right one.

2. Music helps me imagine a scene. Usually, I'm plugged into my headphones, blasting whatever fits the story. Every chapter has a special song. So do the characters. For my "boy book," I listened to lots of classic rock--the same stuff my brother played on his Fender guitar.

3. My newest book was written on the road. I scribbled on bits of paper (sometimes in the back seat of my car during breaks from work). Typed paragraphs on planes, seven miles above ground. Tapped notes into my cell phone. Anything to keep the chapters rolling--even if I only churned out a page. Lately, I'm always traveling. And when I'm not at home, I'm teaching. (no breaks at my college. I teach five classes every quarter, year round). But the stories are always simmering in the back of my mind.

4. If I get stuck on a scene, the characters whisper the answer. It's all about remembering their goals (and every chapter begins and ends with one, too). The people in my stories are very real to me. Often they make cameos in dreams (and my camera is mostly first person, not third).

5. In the morning, I stagger to my computer and get going. I like to move straight from the dream world into the landscape of the story.

6. I believe that all writers have a theme (and they return to that theme in every book). I tend to write about teenagers who are on the outside, looking in.

7. When I complete the first draft of a manuscript, I fall into a dark cloud. It's hard to let go of the characters. We've spent so much time together. In a way, it's like losing friends. Of course, there's only one thing to do.

Write another book.