Along my journey to become a storyteller, I’ve come across many different people, techniques and ideas that have helped me. One of the more recent encounters occurred when I visited the Sunshine Tour‘s author event at Books & Books in Coral Gables. The Sunshine Tour features more than 11 Young Adult authors for Q&As and book signings across Florida and the bordering states.
For the South Florida leg of the tour, the eight authors were: J. A. Souders, author of Renegade; Lucienne Diver, agent and author of the Vamped series; Danielle Joseph, author of Shrinking Violet; Jenny Torres Sanchez, author of The Downside of Being Charlie; Karen Amanda Hooper, author of Tangled Tides ;Heather Burch, author of the Halfling series; Gaby Triana, author of several Young Adult titles; and Christina Diaz Gonzalez, author of The Red Umbrella and A Thunderous Whisper.
In the last post I presented their thoughts on writing for young adults. You can read that post here. For this post, I’m going to discuss their take on the writing process. As you can imagine, each of the authors had their own spin on how they put their stories together.
J.A. Souders said she lets the characters speak to her. “I listen to them for a very long time,” she said. “I know their favorite ice cream and favorite color. Once I know them better than I know myself, then comes a full synopsis. Then a chapter by chapter outline.” Once she gets to draft, however, Ms. Souders said: “it all changes.”
Christina Diaz Gonzalez takes something of the opposite approach to her stories. “I don’t plot,” she said after accepting the mic. “I get the idea for the book, and I know the last chapter. I know how my book will end. The next step is to figure out what the beginning is.”
While the first two authors seemed to focus more on the series of events, Jenny Torres Sanchez starts with character. “The character shows up first, then I try to figure out why they’re there.”
Literary agent and writer, Lucienne Diver also focuses on characters. However, her approach was among the more unique I had heard tell of. “I don’t feel like I know my characters,” Diver said with a smile, “until I know what they listen to.” Considering the vast array of teen-aged characters populating her Vamped world, I could only imagine what her iTunes account looks like.
Baltimore-native and die-hard Ravens fan, Karen Amanda Hooper, called her process “organized chaos.” She took the mic and expounded. “The organized part? I must have chocolate and coffee, and the chaos is everything that comes after.”
Heather Burch provided a more specific insight to her process. “By nature, you’re sort of always building story,” she said. “A book,” she continued, “needs three things: an unforgettable character, a relentless threat, and an impossible situation.” This approach is one I’ve already elected to incorporate in my own story-building process.
The final questions asked of the panel during the Q&A session was an interesting one. The emcee, Sarah Nicolas, said she had heard of a published author going into a bookstore with a red pen, and after finding her book on the shelf, marking up the pages with changes. This anecdote was met with a ripple of laughter from the panel. She then asked the panel if there was anything they would change in their published stories.
“There’s always something,” J.A. Souders said.
“There probably would be some stylistic things,” Christina Diaz Gonzalez said. Her two published novels are works of historical fiction, with her characters from The Red Umbrella being based in part on her parents and mother-in-law. She makes a point to separate her characters from their real-life counterparts. She continued the thought this way: “People ask: ‘did you really need to include this?’ And I always say yes.”
On making changes to her stories, Jenny Torres Sanchez said: “I can’t read my book after it’s done.”
In perhaps a nod to her inner-editor, Lucienne Diver said: “I would change only everything” much to the delight of those gathered.
“I go with my gut,” Karen Amanda Hooper said. She had been upset with making a change to one of her characters that was suggested by an editor. She said change in voice still stands out to her, and to her readers. She talked at length about reader comments, saying: “There are things you take into consideration.” She discussed the idea of adding scenes into her upcoming novels that would be nods to her readers and their comments.
Heather Burch said as a writer “you’re always growing and learning” so as such she tries “not to look at [the books].”
Gaby Triana provided an interesting take. “[The books] are like children. They’re beautiful in this world, flaws and all.”
In the end, the Q&A session and the one-on-one interaction with the authors afterward stood as a valuable experience for me as an aspiring writer. I’ve already started to incorporate some of the things I learned in my writing, and I’ve absolutely decided to approach my next manuscript as a YA one.
Best of luck to those authors on the Sunshine Tour! And thanks for reading!
- Becoming a Storyteller: To YA or Not To YA, that might very well be the Question. Part 1. (dlfwriting.com)
- The Sunshine Tour – pics et. al. (luciennediver.wordpress.com)
- Book Birthday and Advice for the Aspiring Writer from Heather Burch (luciennediver.wordpress.com)
- Becoming a Storyteller: Don’t Panic, or, The Perils of Exposition (dlfwriting.com)
- FANGTABULOUS Giveaway and new tour stops! (luciennediver.wordpress.com)
- Why I write YA (lilycrussell.wordpress.com)