I went outside today and couldn’t feel my face. Now that I’m back indoors, warmed up and can manipulate my fingers again I decided to blog! Because why not, Dainty June? One of my absolute favorite authors is Sharon M. Draper. LOVE HER. A few months ago I started following her on Facebook(She’s so awesome.) and she shared an interview she did with Young Adult Review Network. She’s such an inspiration for literally everything that I write, and here’s what I love most about the interview.
YARN: What does your writing process consist of, from the idea to publication? Has your process been different for different books?
SD: The process for me is not the procedure I tell students to use. Writing learners need to learn the basics, just like a swimming learner needs to first learn how to blow bubbles in the water. So I might skip the traditional outlining and jump right into the deep water of the story. I usually start with a bubble, a blip on my imagination, the tiniest of ideas. It grows as I think about it, develop it in my mind, and enlarge the concepts around it. I jot down notes, look up related ideas, and expand my original concept. Finally, I’m ready to start writing. It is skeletal, under-developed, and decidedly not ready for prime time. So I revise and revise and revise. It grows. I add sensory imagery where needed, explanations, back stories, sometimes adding or deleting a chapter. I focus on characters. Who is this person? What are his or her desires, needs, problems? I try to make each character unique and memorable. After an unbelievable amount of revising, I send it to my editor who says, “It’s a good start—let me offer some revisions!” And so we go until it is ready. Like a perfectly baked brown-crusted pie with juices simmering from the edges, it is ready.
What?! Hold the phone! So Romiette and Julio, Forged By Fire, Battle of Jericho, November Blues, Copper Sun(my favorite!) and others weren’t perfect on their first draft? That makes me feel so much better. Actually, my writing process is very similar. I’m very much a pantser, meaning I just start writing. Usually it’s a character’s name, maybe their age, and a very general issue I want them to face. With my current WIP I actually started with a list of my favorite doo-wop songs and planned to plot a story around them. It kind of didn’t work that way exactly, but once I started adding characters, giving them quirks, and a setting, it really took off. I found that they added their own conflict.
YARN: You write about a lot of heavy duty subjects, and we can imagine that writing about them could get a little depressing. How do you set aside your material at the end of your writing time?
SD: I don’t think the stories are depressing. They are realistic…I think that difficult or controversial subjects should be handled with skill and delicacy…Such subjects dealt with in this manner can then be discussed intelligently because it is the ideas and thoughts we want young readers to share, not the experience itself. We are all attracted to tragedy. That’s why soap operas and sad movies are so popular.
I worry about this all the time. Etta and Emmylou are African-American teenagers who live in 1962 Georgia. I don’t think it would be realistic at all if their race never came into play. Especially since they spend a considerable amount of time with Wilk, who is white. It’s my hope to find a balance between being uncomfortable and perhaps even heartbroken for them, but at the same time not feel like I’m being emotionally manipulative. Their story is so much more than that. Humor and friendship and sisterhood and love.
YARN: You’ve written in various genres—poetry, chapter books, nonfiction, YA—that encompass over thirty books. When you are writing, how do you approach each one? Do you have a particular favorite and/or one you feel most comfortable with?
SD: I probably like fiction the best—realistic fiction and historical fiction. That way I can tell a real story, but make all the characters fictional. When telling a story about long ago, I can make history come alive without a textbook. Characters live in a time that might be remote or distant for my readers, but because people are people regardless of when they are born, I can create characters that my readers can relate to. Stella, in “Stella by Starlight” for example, is eleven years old and is failing fifth grade. But she lives in a small town in 1932 and the historical events of her time intersect in her life. Readers learn history and never even realize it. I love that!
This is where I got super excited! I noticed that a good portion of the books that I gravitated towards were realistic fiction and historical. Something about my brain just craved them. I think it still does. Everything that I seem to write as of late has a historical flare to it. I never aim to write a textbook or anything, but there’s something about the 1960s and earlier that I can’t get enough of. Is it the language? All the changes going on in the country? The fashion? Nobody knows! I have not read Stella by Starlight yet. I honestly feel like I’ve been cheating on Ms. Draper a bit because of it, but it sounds like the type of book I would have devoured back in the 4th grade.
I can go on forever sharing bits of interview, but then this is already getting so long. She actually said one last thing that I think all writers should remember and that is, “I have met thousands of young readers over the years, and most of them just want really well told tale. They want adventure, love, humor, twists of plot, great characters.” Simple enough, right?
I got this,