Friday, August 15, 2014

Guest Post by YA Author Kimberly Giarratano

Today I have a great guest post from YA author Kimberly Giarratano.  She has written a great book about the 90's (a time with both great and awful memories for me).  I loved it and I will have my review of it tomorrow on the blog for you all.  So, without further ado, here's Kim to talk about her book Grunge Gods and Graveyards! 

Finding my ‘right’ process and why I chose to write about the 90s

Years ago, when I was working as a YA librarian, I was inspired to write a YA version of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. It was an old black and white movie about a young widow who falls in love with a snarky, and dead, sea captain who haunts her home. I found it very romantic because it wasn’t until the widow died an old lady that the ghost and Mrs. Muir could be together.

I wanted to tell a similar story, but I required two things: a page-turning plot and discussions about music. Particularly, late 90s alternative music. Initially, I had set the novel in the present day with Danny, my ghost, having died in 1996. I imagined he and Lainey could talk about their favorite red-headed musicians. He was Team Tori Amos and Lainey was Team Florence + the Machine. But this hadn’t worked for me because there was no substitute for “real time.” For Lainey and Danny, 1996 is their real time. When they talk about Radiohead’s OK Computer, they’re discussing music that is new and relevant to them, not looking back on a musical achievement in hindsight.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely buy CDs anymore. I download music from iTunes or listen to albums on Spotify which, for a 90s girl, is cool, but it leaves something to be desired. When I was in college, we had a man who sold CDs in the student center. He’d arrive on Mondays and set up a big folding table with stacks of CDs. I’d race from class to pick up a new album. Then I’d run back to my dorm room to listen to the whole album on loop. I’d sit cross-legged on my bed and read the liner notes. My friends would knock on my door and ask, “Is that the new Tori album? Can I borrow it?” I know I sound like my parents talking about disco in the 70s but I truly believe that the 90s were just plain awesome.

Lastly, setting a novel in the 90s has another big perk. No text messaging. It is so much easier to plot a suspenseful mystery novel when the main character can’t receive text messages warning her about villainous activities.

Speaking of plotting…

The truth is that when I first drafted Grunge Gods and Graveyards, I had no writing process. Oh sure, I read a ton about other people’s writing processes. I scoured blogs to find out how real-life published authors got that way. Up to that point, I had also read a ton of books on the writing craft. I understood story structure and character development. I had a good command of grammar and sentence structure. I had a great premise. What I did not get was that I actually had to write the damn book. It took getting knocked up a second time to light a fire under my pregnant butt. All those false starts. Those first chapters I wrote over and over again. Screw ‘em. It was go time. So after I put my toddler to bed, I just wrote and churned out a really crappy first draft.

No, seriously it was terrible. But it was done. I signed up for Holly Lisle’s ( self-paced course, How to Revise Your Novel, and got to work. Each week I was emailed a new lesson and over the next six months, I systematically revised my 50K word crappy first draft into the much-longer story I meant it to be. Yup, six months. But it was worth it. (If you’re about to embark on your writing career, check out Holly’s website. She’s amazing and has a ton of resources.)

When I was in college, I was the news editor of our school paper. That is where I honed my editing skills. But novel revision is more than tinkering with language. To borrow Holly’s metaphor, revision is like surgery. You’re rebuilding a badly damaged body, in this case, the manuscript. Revision requires taking things out, rearranging parts, and repairing structure. The last thing you worry about is cosmetics such as dialogue tags, misplaced commas, and overly used words.

Now, I have a process. I’m working on my second novel and I’m utilizing Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. ( Briefly, his method is built around understanding the big picture first. You start with your logline and then you funnel down to your intricacies – plot summaries, characters, and, scene lists. Now, my current WIP is still messy. I’ve been tinkering with my scene list and not always to my benefit. But, to use the surgery metaphor again, this
manuscript will be much easier to repair because it’s not so bruised and banged up.

So there ya have it, folks. I’d love to know how you all plot. What’s your process?

And a huge thank you to Megan for having me today. I am so honored.

KIm and a number of other authors have a huge back to school giveaway going on right now!


Kimberly said...

Thanks again for having me on your blog!

Jill said...

I love the idea of a story happening in "real time." That seems to characterize - if not actually define - what YA lit is all about!