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Writers have different approaches to their craft. This is how I work, and how my last few books got published. Printed in TRADEWINDS, the SCBWI newsletter for Hawaii.
TO EACH HIS OWN
Last Sunday on C-Span, an author talked about his writing mode. “I try to get six pages a day. Some days I get only four. But I try for six.”
I wondered, when does he revise? When does he dream and muse and plan? Do his words flow out in perfect form? If so, good for him. But they don’t for me.
No, for me, writing that first draft is a middle activity. I will have “written” a good bit in my mind long before. If you’re ever talking to me and see my eyes veil over, I’m “writing.” Please don’t be offended.
I use different methods for fiction and non-fiction. For my three historical novels, the settings came to me first, then the character and problem. As I researched what Hawaii was like in the late 1800s, characters began to do the things I was reading about. Writing the books was easy; I simply typed what I saw them doing. Then in the many revisions that followed, I made sure there were adequate motivation, lively verbs, tight sentences, and not so much history and culture that a child would stop reading. Major problem.
The characters in my picture books so far have been handed to me. Because my books sell, Dale Madden at Island Heritage (whom I met at an SCBWI conference) sometimes calls me up and says, “I’ve got this illustrator with a cute character, but s/he needs a story. Can you do it?” Sure beats rejection slips.
For non-fiction, I outline. I’ve loved outlining since I was a kid—my mind just works that way. It saves me a lot of rearranging.
How often do I write? Several hours several times a week. When I read the book, PROCRASTINATION, I learned to set attainable goals, and I resolved to write every day at least fifteen minutes. Of course, you know what happened. Those fifteen minutes often expand to two or even five hours.
You have to find what works for you. As Frank Fasi says, “Just do it!”
Books by Elaine Masters currently in print:
YUMI AND HER BEST-FOREVER FRIEND
THE THIEF IN CHINATOWN
KALANI AND THE NIGHT MARCHERS
FOOTLOOSE THE MONGOOSE & THE JUMPING FLEA
FOOTLOOSE THE MONGOOSE & HIS WONDERFUL OHANA
MOMI, A HAWAIIAN MERMAID IN THE LAND OF DELIGHT.
THE ROYAL WAKER-UPPER