What do you write, and what, specifically, are you working on now?
I write both nonfiction and fiction. I like to be working on several different projects at once.
I just finished a critical essay on Hermione (from the Harry Potter books) that will be published in an anthology next year. I also write the occasional article, such as baby showers that promote nutrition in Indian slums or the ups and downs of traveling solo.
Longer-term, I’m working on an LGBT novel about a girl coming to grips with her identity and her history. And I’m working on a memoir.
Also, of course, I write about books and writing on my blog, www.melodyandwords.com.
What do your first drafts typically look like? What is your revision process?
My process is quite different depending on whether I’m writing nonfiction or fiction. With nonfiction, I gather together research, interviews, notes, and my outline, and I usually write one draft straight through. Then I submit it to my editor, if I have one, and revise as she or he requests. These revisions are usually small tweaks for clarity; I rarely (knock on wood) re-conceptualize the whole piece.
My process for fiction is totally opposite. I begin by opening my notebook and just writing. Sometimes I have an image or phrase that prompts me, but most of the time what I want to write takes shapes as words appear on the page. It’s kind of creepy, actually. Then I type these notes up, and that’s when the craft of writing really happens. I add or take away scenes and refine, refine, refine. Then I put each piece or section away for a few weeks, and revise ad nauseum. The finished product (which never seems to be actually finished) never resembles the scrawling in my notebook, which is much for the better.
Where do you like to write? What tools do you use?
I like to write fiction and essay while I’m commuting. I find that the physical act of being in motion helps me move through a story, if that makes sense. Then, for the typing-up part, I like sitting on my couch with my laptop while my fiance watches football. I love having ambient noise around me as I work; it helps me focus. One of the side effects of growing up with eight siblings, I suppose. As for tools, does a sledgehammer count? Ha, ha, writer’s humor. I use MS Word on my laptop, and the Gmail app on my phone or tablet.
Who is your favorite author and/or what is your favorite book, and why?
You’d think, as a book reviewer, I would say, “Oh, it’s impossible to choose just one book; here are ten good ones I read this year.” (Timely promotional note: Visit my blog later this week to read my Top 13 Books of 2013!) But the answer to this one is easy: I will always love Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. The Lost Generation and their fumblings for happiness, however fleeting, resonate deeply in me. Also, the amount of drinking in that book reassures me about my own comparatively teensy beer consumption.
What was the first piece you ever wrote, and what made you decide to start it?
When I was nine or ten, I wrote a song called “Fair-Weather Friend.” The chorus, as I recall, went: “Hello, my fair-weather friend. Haven’t seen you in a while, wonder why.” (At “why,” there’s a very wrenching noise happening with a guitar. I was never very musical, I have no idea why I wanted to write a song. But my mom liked it.) I decided to write the song because I thought I’d heard the announcer on the radio say this title, and it struck me as a song I would want to listen to. Yep, even at 9 I was emo.
Where can we read more of your work?
Oh, thank you for asking! As I so modestly mentioned above, I write with varying levels of frequency on my blog, www.melodyandwords.com. I review books, talk about the writing process, and post links to my freelance articles there. Come on by!
Melody Wilson has been published by The Washington Post, Slate, Washingtonian, Bitch, and other publications that she is inordinately proud of.