The wonderful Leslie Pietrzyk, who blogs on her site Work-in-Progress (www.workinprogressinprogress.com), tagged me in the writing process hop going around on a lot of authors’ sites. Here is an excerpt from her answer about how her writing process works:
“Slowly, obsessively, painfully, stoically. Grind out a draft (computer). Set it aside and fret: genius or fraud? (this is when I get to drink). Rewrite (on computer). Repeat (on paper). Repeat (read out loud). Multiply by as many times as needed. Give up and declare it finished. (I also get to drink here).”
And here are my answers to the four questions:
1. What am I working on?
I am in the process of editing (and trying to figure out what I’m going to do with) a book that was supposed to be a long novel but came out as a short novel/novella. Over the past month, I have committed every horrendous writing error found in most of my work:
• Not knowing the plot until the end
• Having way too many point of view characters
• Trying to write a long novel, but actually writing a novella, novelette, short story, or some other equally not-sellable piece of fiction (keep in mind the piece still has way too many POV characters)
• Switching not only between POV’s, but also between times and places for every single chapter
The book (or whatever it is) takes place in the Maldives, which, by the way, I have never been to, and my characters speak Dhivehi, which I do not speak. As you can tell, I seem to like to torture myself with as difficult a structure as possible—I get bored otherwise!
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well, my work is hard to classify in the first place, let alone compare. I mainly write literary fiction, but that fiction could take the form of a young adult trilogy with witches and dragons (Dreamweaver Road), a multicultural novel (Cairo in White), a book of short stories (Three on the Bank and Other Stories, which is a finalist for the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award), or pretty much any other genre my brain spits out. I also write a lot of poetry, mostly about travel, but also sometimes about failed relationships, flying in dreams, or robots. I just hope that if readers like my writing style, they’ll follow me down whatever paths my writing leads us to.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Like most writers, I have a very active imagination and spend a lot of time just spacing out as my mind races from thought to thought to thought. I also have a lot of energy, as you can tell from my answer to question #2—there’s a reason my friend Ryan Nolan at Hopkins nicknamed me “Sunny” during our first semester. I write because I have to, because if I held all of my ideas and characters and voices and images and poetic lines inside my brain, I would probably explode. If I go even a day without writing, I feel anxious and overloaded. Some people run their energy off, other people paint or dance—I write. And in particular I write literary fiction because it is the closest I can come to writing both prose and poetry, and writing about topics I’m interested in, like gender or race or class and their intersectionality (I was a Women’s Studies major during undergrad, after all).
4. How does your writing process work?
Like Kerouac as he cranked out his first draft of On the Road (but much less famously), I write the entire drafts of most of my novels in just a few weeks. I get in a very creative phase where I have a wonderful image or character or idea and just run with it, accumulating page after page every morning and night until the entire draft is done, and I eat/breathe/sleep my novel. Dreamweaver Road took me ten days; my current short novel took just over a month. Cairo in White was pretty much the only exception to this rule, with edits and rewrites lasting about six years, but I hope I never have to go through that again! I am pretty terrible at editing, and usually end up starting from scratch if I don’t like my original draft instead of revising it.
Since all of my writer friends are apparently flakier than everyone else’s writer friends, only one of them agreed to do this blog hop out of two rounds of requests. I guess that means her blog post will be six times as good! Look for this interesting writer’s blog post during the week of May 12:
Carrie Russell is the author of the novel Drowning Cactus. Carrie studied literature and writing at Columbia and Oxford. She also has a J.D. from Harvard Law School. She has worked at a number of nonprofit environmental organizations and still practices law when she can’t resist a cause. Her blog address is http://carrierussellbooks.wordpress.com/.