Teen and Young Adult author Huntley Fitzpatrick discusses the process of writing her popular novels. Her latest, "The Boy Most Likely To," is available now on Kindle.
My writing process? Yeah, I should get around to having one someday soon.
My husband said “Tell them stress is your muse.” My kids’ advice boiled down to “Make stuff up.”**
**the older ones didn’t say “stuff”
Here’s the truth. If I’ve got a process—and for the sake of argument and this blog, let’s assume I do--it’s, er, fluid. One thing I’ve learned from writing several books, as with parenting a few more than several children—is that a lot of times how it plays out has more to do with that particular one than any cleverness on your own part.
My first book, My Life Next Door, poured out. From the start I knew where to go, as if I were following one of the winding, looping strings my parents used to tie for me to lead to Christmas presents. The characters—all of them—spoke in my head, loud, clear, even articulate—though usually at 2 a.m.. I would spring up from bed to tap the dialogue onto the computer before the words faded. I scribbled down descriptions of the ocean, the smell of river water in my home town, the sweet weight of someone you love’s arm draped around your waist on any bit of paper I found anywhere. I combed my journals for that moment when you “just knew”—that you were in love, that your parents didn’t have all the answers, that you had wandered from your best self, that your losses were restored. Out of all this came My Life Next Door—a book I began writing for the sometimes lonely teenager I was, which became a book about the family—and the self—you find once you go looking for where you really belong.
Just in case I’d thought I had the process down—or an actual process at all--What I Thought was Truehad a different trajectory. The string I followed led out into the forest.: I often doubled back or cut it and followed an entirely different path. The hero switched personality—name, hair color, backstory, everything-- four times. The heroine’s history transformed and reformed again. The incident which led to conflict between them changed so many times I lost count. Only the story I set out to tell—that the path you are on—and the one you’ve already walked—can change depending on how how you see it—remained true to the original idea. Whoa. I’m just now seeing that the writing process echoed the theme. Cool. Note to self: Be more conscious of this…er, someday.
The Boy Most Likely To, like its characters (got a theme going here. Excellent!) trudged through wrong directions and road blocks and no trespassing signs (I didn’t think YA could hold a few of the things I wanted to cover) before it made its way to the end. But I lifted my fingers from typing “the end” with a sigh of satisfaction, relief, and actual accomplishment.
Even better, ready to face whatever winding road Book Four involves. I don’t have a process, I don’t have a map. But I’m coming to know I do have at least a compass…the book I set out to find…and I’ll get there.
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