5 YA Authors Reveal Their Writing Process + A Discussion on Fear

5 YA Authors Reveal Their Writing Process + A Discussion on Fear

Scroll down for author processes + a downloadable PDF w/ more of their writing advice ♥

In the fall of 2015 I attended the very first Nerdcon: Stories in Minneapolis, MN. The convention basically catered to two types of attendees: the fan and the creator. It very much wanted the people who came into the convention center as fans to leave as creators, and the creators to become fans of not only their fellow creators but of their own fans.

Creator, Fan, Both, Neither?

I was at a very weird crossroads in my life where going into the con I wasn’t really either fan or creator.

Once I had been a huge fan of John and Hank Green, who were the masterminds behind this gathering. It was 2015 when I started drifting away from the nerdfighter community for various reasons. Let’s say I was…at odds with one of the Vlog Brothers at the time and the communities treatment of their audience. 

I love these people! I am actually in this, waaaay in the back recording Hank’s singing next to a pillar away from the anxiety of the crowd. Image from the official NerdCon twitter.

So, not exactly a fan of some of the “big name” special guests. I was definitely star struck by Mara Wilson, it’s always nice to see Lev Grossman, and the energy is always great at these things. The HPA 10 year anniversary gave me all the feels. I came away with a to-read list taller than I am, from all the great authors I heard speak but didn’t know about before hand. Not to mention, I became pretty much obsessed with every performer to grace the stage.

Every other con I had attended before this one, I at least always thought of myself as a creator. I was a YouTuber. Not just any YouTuber but a BookTuber. I was sent free books, I had an upload schedule, I had thousands of subscribers, I was a proper creator.

In the fall of 2015 to early 2016 I was struggling against the storm of a reddit community who didn’t like the content I was making. That makes it sound way more benign than it was, and I’ve talked about ways to avoid it, but long story short: I was scared. I struggled against my instinct to stop creating (not just YouTube, but everything) and my urge to create. The instinct to stop was largely winning.

What could I possibly write that would appease these people? Did I even WANT to write what they wanted me to write? Could I even stand the blank page after getting those threats for just writing a script? No matter what format I write in, they’ll find me and my writing. Anything I write and want to make money off of could ruin my life. Is it worth it? 

I found the answers to those questions at the time were: nothing, no, definitely not, and no.

 

The Creation Process is Different For Everyone

So basically, I had just recently stopped feeling like a creative or a fan.

Then, I went to a panel called Honing Your Craft: Embettering Your Word-Doing, with five awesome YA authors* who talked about their writing process.

And you know what? It was largely that panel that caused me to leave the convention both a fan and a creator again.

A common thread in their writing processes was this fear and anxiety. Each author discussed different methods of writing and living in spite of that fear. That meant the world to me. Of course they talked about how they actually write, including some great advice which I still use, some of which I detailed below. That whole giving yourself permission to suck or to only write what you can even if it’s only a sentence, though, that was exactly what I needed to hear. 

I needed to work through my fear. As Pablo said, I had to “identify my crazy.” And I did. Sure, my “crazy” is literal mental illnesses and disorders, but the internet threats didn’t help. I had to remind my self that it was perfectly okay to be freaked out. I forgave myself for not making anymore videos. Even if it was only a few sentences, I worked on other projects as much as I could. Hearing their writing process helped me overcome my fear, which gave me the confidence to become successful.

In fact, some of the confidence I gained from this panel helped formed my writing secret ebook. 

I am SO GLAD I took notes during the panel, despite the notes being nearly impossible to decode. Still, there’s a lot of really good stuff in my notes that isn’t mentioned below. That’s mostly because I can not remember who gave what advice, to be completely honest. You can download and attempt to sift through my notes on the “Honing Your Craft” panel right here.

Since I wasn’t making videos anymore I didn’t have anywhere to share these notes. So, now they’re yours. They served me well, I hope they do the same for you.

Authors Reveal Their Writing Process

Pablo Bacigalupi

Who is absolutely impossible to draw beeteedubs

kyrajwolff.com/08/25/writing-process-fearProcess changes book from book.

Once spent 6 days writing a novel, spending 14 hours a day doing 10K each day. After 4K or 5K the words came easily. He forced himself to do it, not giving himself an escape – the 10K words had to be there.

Gives himself permission to suck.

Before he finds the plot he finds the characters. He writes them into absolutely any scene, over and over, until they become fleshed out and real (I’ve been doing this and it’s g8).

When finding a plot he comes up with a general idea, like writing about climate change, and then researches and asks himself how he can portray that.

When he stops writing at certain points he sits down and really figures out where that fear is coming from. He said he needs to “identify his crazy.”

Nalo Hopkins

Struggles to find a process that always vibes with her disorders, she kind of just spends time on the computer hoping writing will happen.

She uses Scrivner to outline her 7-part plot structure.

Allows herself to write just one sentence a day if she needs to.


Lev Grossman

Process also changes book to book.

Spent 18 months writing a book he realized was bad and unsalvageable, but it was a learning experience.

Doesn’t write more than 1 or 2 hours a day, mostly on the subway which is the only time he has to physically write. He spends A LOT of time thinking about his book and basically writing it in his head constantly so he’s ready to type like the wind when he finally gets that free time.

At least for his series he did very little outlining or character work…basically the absolute minimum amount he could get away with.

He takes things from other authors by figuring out what they do extremely well and why he likes them. For instance he’ll take his writing that lacks atmosphere and put it through “a Night Circus filter.”

Stephanie Perkins

Her process changes week from week and she doesn’t feel bad about that, she just adapts.

“What work can I get done today?”

kyrajwolff.com/08/24/writing-process-fear

Writes the beginning, the end, some stuff in the middle, and then writes piece to piece.

She writes extensive notes at the end of her workday.

She works four hours a day at most, and forces herself to stop.

“As long as you get something done [today], you’ll get done eventually.”

Has anxiety. The Freedom app helps with internet and writing based anxiety.

 She literally hides her phone, but gives herself a break every hour just to check texts.

Holly Black

Tries not to plot until she “knows how it sounds.” If you’ve read any of Holly’s work you know what this means.

She tends to write a bad outline, starts writing, realizes it’s bad, and changes it while already in the narrative. Rinse and repeat.

Also has anxiety and uses apps like Freedom.

*I know Lev is not technically a young adult author and the MCs of his series are in their early/mid 20’s but listen…they act like kids, he runs in the YA crowd, for simplicity sake he’s a YA author. It’s normally women authors who get pushed into this category even though they only write for adults so hey we’re flipping the script.

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