I hope you’re ready to meet a reformed pantser! Today, Kristen Lippert-Martin joined me to talk about all things writing. Kristen is another awesome member of the YA Valentines, and she’s the author of TABULA RASA, coming in 2014 from Egmont. Enjoy!
1. When did you start writing?
I started writing seriously—like, “I want to be a writer” writing—when I was twenty-four.
2. Are you a pantser or a planner?
I am a reformed pantser! Lordy, lordy, I have seen the light! I do plan now. Mostly those plans horribly go awry, but, hey, I try in my own sad, disorganized way to map things out. I’ve gotten stuck in too many dead ends and plot holes to have not learned from my mistakes.
3. Can you give us an idea of your writing process?
I’m fairly convinced that my writing process is the absolute worst, most chaotic, and abominable approach to creating fiction there is. Truly. I work backwards and forwards at the same time, sometimes focusing on structure, other times niggling around with individual sentences. I skip back and forth between parts of the story. I take notes on one thing, which reminds me about something else and then I get distracted by that. I zoom out and look at the big picture one moment and then zoom back down into the weeds the next. I envy anyone who can do things systematically using color coding, post-it notes, highlighters. All that. Because I most definitely cannot do it. First drafts especially are an all-out wrestling match between me and the Muse and most of the time, I’m getting my face planted in the mat.
4. Which authors have influenced your work?
I’m answering in terms of who I’ve loved and hope I’ve learned from: Agatha Christie, William Maxwell, George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte, and J.K. Rowling. Plus many, many others, but these are the writers who, through mastery of craft or because of the themes that emerge in their work, or because of their personal examples of courage have provided the currents that have borne my aspirations along.
5. What are your plans/future projects/new releases that we should be aware of?
My YA debut is called Tabula Rasa, and it’s due out from EgmontUSA in Fall 2014. Which seems like a hundred years off at this point! Right now I’m working on a YA fantasy that I think of as “The Princess Bride meets Graceling.” I’ve always just done straight-up science fiction—Tabula Rasa is a contemporary, reality-based sci-fi—so this fantasy thing is something new for me. But if you read the two books, you’d definitely be able to tell they were both written by the same person, a person who loves adventure, smart-assery, and a butt well-kicked.
6. Any tips for new writers?
Whether it’s a short story, a novel, whatever, Finishing the Dang Thing is the most important skill you can build. The earlier you get the hang of it, the better. And yes, of course, you’re going to hate it. That’s part of the writing process. Everyone hates what they’re working on at some point. That’s completely normal and not—repeat NOT—a reason to abandon what you’re doing. Later on, when you’ve got a few completed mss under your belt, you’ll be able to tell when a story is going to pay out and when it isn’t but early, you really don’t know so you have to force it. One of the hardest things for me to realize was that most stories are like rickety old fold-away beds that must be pulled out and unfurled with brute force. A lot of the time, it’s really that simple. You suck it up and push the thing to the finish line even if it gags you.
7. Any tips for old writers?
Don’t force it. 😉
My debut YA thriller, TABULA RASA (EgmontUSA) Fall 2014