Anna-Marie McLemore on #MyWritingProcess

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AMroadWPHi, all! I’m Anna-Marie McLemore. We haven’t been officially introduced (my introduction is coming soon!), but in the meantime I’m stopping by to join the #MyWritingProcess blog tour. I was tagged by Kelly Loy Gilbert, who’s not only one of my favorite people, but also a fellow Fifteener, and author of the heartbreakingly realistic, startlingly funny debut CONVICTION.

You can find Kelly’s post here. She also tagged fabulous Fifteener Sabaa Tahir, whose post you can find here. And here’s a little about what I’m up to:

What am I working on?

I’m wrapping up revisions on my debut THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, about two teens from rival families of traveling performers who fall in love despite a longstanding feud.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My stories often involve cultures coming up against each other, how the folklore of one tradition diverges from and entangles with that of another. But writing about cultures meeting isn’t just about clashing, it’s also about overlooked commonalities. In THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, one family is Latino and the other is Romani. Though in some ways the Mexican-American background I come from contrasts sharply with Romani tradition, in others, they have more common ground than I ever imagined before I started researching for FEATHERS. Those differences and that overlap may not be the center of the plot, but they’re an undercurrent, a kind of steady hum throughout the story.

Why do I write what I do?

I didn’t realize I was writing magical realism until other people told me I was. I probably had that blind spot because of the cultures I come from. Magical realism feels natural. It feels like the stories I heard as a child and the traditions I grew up in. It feels like home.

How does your writing process work?

I did a lot of traveling with my dad growing up, and for each trip, he always created a dizzyingly detailed itinerary. Right down to what bus we’d catch. What museum opened its rare book room on Monday mornings. What route we’d take when we were walking from one town to the next. But then he wouldn’t stick to them! Let’s get a later train! How about that museum? Why don’t we stop at that other village over there?

It drove me crazy. Why put so much work into a plan if you’re just going to scrap it? But now, in my writing, I do the same thing. It takes me almost as long to plot out a story as to get the first draft down. Yet inevitably, about halfway through, I’ve thrown out the outline. A roadmap can be liberating rather than limiting. My dad’s itineraries gave him the plans he could stick to or stray from. My outlines hold my hand until I find my footing in the story.

Next on the #MyWritingProcess tour, I’m tagging:

Mackenzi Lee, who writes some of the most gorgeous and innovative historical YA I’ve ever read.

Diversity-promoting superhero Kaye of Watercolor Moods, her blog of reviews, book recs, writing updates, and generally wonderful posts.

Thanks for stopping by! Happy writing and reading!

Anna-Marie McLemore writes from her Mexican-American heritage and the love for stories she learned from her family. She lives in California’s Central Valley with a boy from the other side of the Rockies. Her debut novel THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a YA contemporary love story with a magical twist, will be released in 2015 from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. You can find her on Twitter @laannamarie.

Fonda Lee on #MyWritingProcess

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il_570xN.325609108Today I’m taking part in the #MyWritingProcess blog hop, and thought I’d use this opportunity to put in another appearance with the Fearless Fifteeners. I was tagged by a lovely writer I met at the Willamette Writers Conference in Oregon last year, Kim Johnson (http://kimcjohnson.wordpress.com/), who manages to juggle being a new mom with working on two YA suspense novels in progress, HER ONLY ESCAPE and CROSSING ANGELA.

Here’s a look at what I’m up to.

What am I working on?

Right now, I’m revising ZEROBOXER for my editor. I’m also revising another manuscript, a YA fantasy, for my agent before we take it on submission. I’m drafting a new science fiction novel, which I hope to have done by the fall. I just finished writing a speculative short story (an experiment for me—I’m very much a long-form person) and I’ve put it aside to marinate for a while before I return to it. Lastly, I have three ‘on deck’ ideas that I turn around in my head while driving or in the shower. Occasionally I jot down notes, and the concepts I still like after several months will move into research and outlining phase.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My writing is heavy on action and difficult moral issues. I’m drawn to stories that offer no easy answers and examine human nature and society through the lens of speculative fiction—think Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica—so my work often doesn’t have a stark “good vs. evil” conflict. I’m more interested in putting my characters in situations where they’re torn between equally bad choices. I’ve been a martial artist since I was a teen, and am a big fan of (good, smart) action movies, which explains my enthusiasm for crafting exciting fight sequences.

While romance and angst might be part of my protagonists’ journey, even a big part, I tend to handle them (perhaps overly) lightly, and they are almost never the main focus of the narrative. My main characters are almost always young men and women of action. Get-shit-done kind of people.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what I want to read. That’s pretty much the only reason.

How does your writing process work?

Before I start a project, I spend a month or more doing nothing but reading and researching. I read up on topics that I will use to form the world and the characters I am going to create. Since I write science fiction and fantasy, I want the world and its issues to feel real to me before I ever set pen to paper. For ZEROBOXER, I devoured MMA memoirs as well as novels about boxers and fighters. I watched a lot of UFC and live local fights. I read lots of books on living in space, how we would colonize Mars, and genetic engineering. (I couldn’t find a way to get into space myself, unfortunately!) And I stay immersed in the genre by reading other novels.

I write an outline. I won’t start a book if I don’t know how it ends. I know writers are divided about this, but personally, I want the rough shape of the whole story to be clear to me. My outline is flexible and not very detailed—a one to three sentence summary of each chapter.

7150456391_db1655c8b3_oMy first drafts take some time. Some people swear by a fast first draft—getting it all out there as quickly as you can and not revisiting anything you wrote the day before. That doesn’t work for me. I tried NaNoWriMo once and hated everything I wrote so much that it took a lot of the joy out of the project for me. There are definitely scenes and chapters I have to fudge through to continue the momentum, but I will do some revising as I go along, working slowly and steadily for three to six months to get it out to my satisfaction.

The inevitable rewriting and revisions don’t take a ton of time after that.

All that said, each book is different. My current project is in its second complete rewrite, so it goes to show that even when you have a ‘process’ you can’t count on it. At all.

Up next on the #MyWritingProcess blog hop is Marie Langager (http://www.marielangager.com/), author of the YA science fiction novel, BEYOND OUR STARS. Marie lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and son. She has a BA in English. She’s certain that many new adventures await us beyond our stars.

In the meantime, you can win a copy of ZEROBOXER and other cool stuff at this reveal and giveaway.

FJLee HeadshotFonda Lee is an author and recovering corporate strategist who was born and raised in Calgary, Canada (land of hockey, rodeo, and oil reserves) and now lives with her family in Portland, Oregon (land of rain, hipsters, and Powell’s books). When she is not writing she can be found training in kung fu or searching out tasty breakfasts. Her debut upper YA science fiction novel, ZEROBOXER, will be published by Flux in April 2015. You can find Fonda at www.fondalee.com and on Twitter @fondajlee.