Monday, May 12, 2014

My Writing Process, the tour

Cartoon by BrainPop on Flickr
So, there are these two writers--R.L. Saunders and Joe McGee--who are pretty amazing. Their agent, Linda P. Epstein, is at the same agency as my agent--which is kind of how I got to know them. I started reading their blogs, and I was all "holey moley, this is some interesting stuff." Both of them write engaging sentences. Both of them make you think. And both of them have gotten themselves involved in this writing process blog thingy.
Joe McGee
R.L Saunders

Which is where I come in.
You see, Joe tagged Rhonda, and Rhonda passed the torch to me--and now I get to bend your ear for a coupla minutes about this whole writing thing which, if you've thought about it, you have to admit is a bit of a mystery.

I've been writing since I was knee high to a 6th-grader. And I've been writing for publication for more years than I'd like to admit--which means that when I do eventually get published, I will label myself an overnight sensation. (The kind of "overnight" that Rip Van Winkle woke from, of course.) What little I do know can basically be boiled down to: "Just Keep on Trucking," and "One Size Most Definitely Does Not Fit All."

And now, my answers to the tour's questions:

What are you working on?
Will you think badly of me if I admit that I am working on more things than I should be? I am the poster child for the bright and shiny new idea--and unfortunately such things plague me daily. In the shower, on a walk, chopping vegetables: here they come. I have notebooks filled with ideas, four different starts of novels--all of which are magnifico; and a couple of things "in revision," (and which probably will remain in revision for the same time as The Phantom of the Opera has been on Broadway. Hey, we're here for the long haul, ain't we?)

But I probably should say I'm working on a chapter book about a couple of crazy housepets--while I wait for word from the agent about what he thinks of my latest chapter book which I am sure will be the next big thing, and which I can't tell you about because I am superstitious. I also abide--like a good middle grade mafioso--by the code of Omerta.

Speaking of Omerta, here comes the Don to check in on me now--so I'll have to pretend I'm working on his autobiography, VITAL VITO: PUTTING THE GOD IN GODFATHER.

Oh no. He speaks.

Don Vito: Michale! Long time no see. Youse up for a game of cards? Winner take all.

Me: Sorry, Boss. I'm on deadline.

The Don, pinching my cheek: That's what I like about you writer types, always dreaming up some crazy scheme or another. Did you hear Luca's got himself a new blog, too? "In Da Cement," he's calling it. Says it's his restaurant reviews. (Winks). You believe him?

(Luca's my main blogging rival, so making him look bad is kind of my major goal in life.)

Me: I did hear about that. Last week he was claiming some place in Manhattan makes an eggplant parmigiana better than your wife's. (Let the Don stew on that for a while. He doesn't look pleased.) But hey, I do need your advice. I've got to write something about how my work... let me look up the question... oh yeah, here it is: How does your work differ from others in its genre?

The Don: Easy. You're better than everyone else. Look at the top of this blog. What did I say to ya when ya started this thing? "You're not middle anything. You're top grade. Top grade, you hear me? Anybody else call you this middle thing, and I bust some knee caps. Capice?"

Me: Well, thanks for the vote of confidence, Boss. But apparently I shouldn't consider myself a snowflake.

The Don: Hey, don't talk to me of snowflakes, Michale. You hear it snowed in Denver on Mudder's Day? Snowed! And right after we bought the ice cream truck franchise out west, too. Jiminy Cricket wid bells on.

Me:  Sorry to hear that. Hey, here's another question: Why do you write what you do?

The Don: What?! Are youse getting all mumbo jumbo and psychological on me? The answer's simple: Because I pay you.

Me: I think it means why do I write middle grade, and not adult romance, or something like that...?

The Don: Romance? I'd like to see you try that stuff. You get squeamish when you see people kissin'. Nah, let me tell ya the answer. You write your kinda stuff because you can barely tie your shoelaces. No offence, ya understand? But you're a kid.

Me: Well, I like to think I'm a kid at heart...

The Don: Listen, you're still a kid. Now, any more of dem questions? I'se got a lawyer waiting I gotta speak with.

Me: There's one last one: How does your writing process work? Let's see, I get interrupted a lot. I'm at the mercy of the "powers that be." I try and do a couple of hours daily, in the morning because that's when the kids are at school and my biorhythms are at their best...

The Don: You read about dem biorhythms in Reader's Digest?

Me: Some place like that. Let's see... I get ideas from all over the place. Usually, a character comes into my head. This character has a great name, and I start asking him or her questions, and then he or she riffs, and then I go "What if...?" and then, the character and I, we come up with a plot, and then...

The Don: Whoa, youse reacting badly to some medication, or what? I'll call in Daffara, that medico who helped me with my inflammation...

Me: I'm fine. You might wanna check in on Luca, though. I guess my final answer is that I work and work, and I laugh at my own jokes, and pretty soon I've got something down. And then the heavy lifting begins and...

The Don, circling finger around by his ear: Woo-woo. Would you look at the time? Youse making me late for bocce. Don't forget, next week I wanna see dem page proofs on the God in Godfather bidness. Capice? Ciao!

Phew! Well, as you can see, writing can be a whole lotta fun when you got someone like the Don breathing down your neck. Hey, speaking of next week, this writing process tour is going to feature my pal from Project Mayhem, Joy McCullough-Carranza. Here's her bio from Project Mayhem:

Joy McCullough-Carranza – Joy grew up in San Diego (where she was a total bookworm), went to college in Chicago (where she studied theater and became a playwright), and lived in Guatemala for a year (where she met her husband). Now she makes her home in Seattle with two book-obsessed kids and an equally book-obsessed husband. A walk through their home includes the ever-present danger of a falling stack of books. Between homeschooling her children, freelance writing and editing, answering someone else’s fan mail, and writing her own middle grade fiction, Joy makes room for Project Mayhem in her life. She is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc.  Website  Twitter  Blog
Thanks, all! See you for some more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday next week. I've got a goodie for you... (P.S. The winner of last week's ARC of The Meaning of Maggie was Andrea Mack!)


  1. Ha, ha, Michael! Glad to know more about your process! I would like to get to the point where I could work on multiple projects (by choice and inclination, not while held at gunpoint by deadlines). Maybe next year after the Big Retirement?

  2. And I thought I was the only person writing in this way! And yes, I'm staring at six inches of snow. What happened to Spring? Hmmm...might be story here.

  3. Just you are totally going to get an idea for a romantic adult novel, shiny new idea guy, lol!

    Thanks and good luck with the project with your agent!

  4. Michael G-G, you killed it. I'm DYING here. I love your Don Vito so much. And I also love getting the little snowflake reference. Sly devil. Thanks so much for doing this! So glad I didn't have to follow you (like following Joe was any easier!).

  5. Thanks for the laughs this Monday morning, Michael. Your conversations with the Don are always entertaining. And I expect to see that book VITAL VITO in stores soon. Ha!

    I hear ya: Shiny new ideas are always hard to resist. But I find I can't work on more than two things at once. It's nice to have another WIP to turn to when I get stuck on the first one.

  6. Love hearing about your process. I wish I could work on more than one thing at a time...if I do, all my characters start sounding the same.

  7. Great interview. Funny stuff.


Youse got something to say? Well, say it then. (The Don and I will shoot you... a personal reply, that is. But if we can't find your e-mail, we'll just reply in the comment box.)