Thursday, December 20, 2012

Guest Author: Karen Cushman

Today I welcome Newbery Award winning author Karen Cushman to the blog to  tell us a bit about her writing process. Ms. Cushman is responsible for such wonderful books as The Midwife's Apprentice and Catherine, Called Birdy. Her latest novel, Will Sparrow's Road, is her first book with a male main character. 

We bought our house partly because of the charming studio for me to write in.  But I don’t write there.

My writing process?  Here’s the short version:  I don’t write every day and I don’t always write in a chair.  I don’t have a set number of words or pages to do before I stop.  I don’t follow anyone’s rules, and I don’t have rules of my own.
 I remodeled this loft as a place for me to write in.  But I don’t write there.
I believe my job is to write each day but I could write a longer post about my procrastination process: I read the newspaper, emails, writing blogs, and Google News. I eat breakfast, shower, do a load of laundry, think about dinner. I answer emails, play computer solitaire, and talk baby talk to my cat.  Finally I am impatient enough with myself to sit down and work.
 I write here, in this big chair in the living room, but I have to fight the cat for it
I don’t outline or make 3×5 cards, or storyboards, but I do have a story pretty well developed in my head before I start to write it.  I hate facing the blank page, and I find writing the first draft by far the hardest part of the job, pulling words out of me like, Katherine Paterson says, a spider spinning a web out of her own guts.  Revision is much easier.
Very early draft of my work in progress.
As I write my first draft, I go back and polish those pages and chapters that came before.  Over and over.  This is how I start working each day–reading over and polishing what I have already written.  It’s those early chapters that establish mood and voice and I like to know these as I write on.  Is the voice humorous and ironic, like Birdy? Naive but wise like Alyce?  Sad and angry like Rodzina?  Complaining and confrontational as are Lucy and Matilda?  Or dishonest, suspicious, and vulnerable like Will Sparrow?  And what have I written that might surprise me or challenge me or take me in a new direction?
Final edits on galleys of Will Sparrow’s Road.  After months and months of editing, there are still corrections.
 If I get stuck or blocked when I’m writing a new scene or passage, I go back to page 17 or 13 or 1, read what I’ve written, and get myself back into the story.  But I must say I am always aware of writing versus editing.  It’s important that I don’t write and edit at the same time.  I have to know which hat I have on.
When writing, this famous author wears these.
  I once despaired of my lack of routine to my editor, Dinah Stevenson, and she said, “Your process is your process.  Honor it.”  And it does work for me.  So I recommend writers discover their own process, even if it is lack of routine, and honor it.  There are no rules.

Thanks Ms. Cushman! I love hearing about how writers go about their craft.

For the final stop on the blog tour stop by Mr. Shu's blog Watch. Connect. Read. tomorrow. 

Other posts form the tour this week include an interview with Kirby Larson at Kirby's Lane, about writing a male mc at Green Bean Teen Queen, and a chance to win a giveaway of Will Sparrow's Road at A Year of Reading.
I will be sharing my thoughts on Will Sparrow's Road here tomorrow as well.

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