By Lexie Smith
At February’s Third Thursday programW.K. “Kip” Stratton, Greg Garrett, Jacqueline Kelly and Keith Graves gave us lots of food for thought as they answered questions from moderator Cyndi Hughes (fearless WLT leader) about their creative processes. Last week Scribe brought you the highlights of the discussion; this week we’ll dive in deep to recap two of the four questions that the panel answered. Enjoy!
How did you get the idea for your most recent book?
Greg’s latest book started as a screenplay that he had to set aside because it wasn’t working. He returned to it when his heart was broken, applying his theory that “nothing bad happens in life because it can all be used as material.”
Kip’s idea for his Floyd Patterson book came to him so long ago he doesn’t remember what spurred it, other than an interest in Floyd’s story. His book, Backyard Brawl, came about because a fellow writer wasn’t able to do the project, so it was offered to Kip.
The idea for Jacqueline’s book, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, came to her as she sweltered in her 100-year-old house on a summer afternoon. As she wondered how people managed in the heat back then, a little voice in her head answered, dictating two pages to her. Those pages were the beginning of the short story that would become a novel, thanks to the encouragement of her writing group.
As an artist, Keith has loads of drawings and sketches of characters in his notebooks. Picture books were a natural fit for him. Branching out to chapter books gives him the opportunity to use his ideas that won’t fit in picture books. His recent chapter book is based on a favorite character of his that his publishers wanted to use in a longer book.
What is the process of writing a first draft like for you?
Jacqueline goes against the advice of many writing books, including Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: write a bad first draft. She edits herself as she writes. Therefore, she writes quite slowly and requires little revision. For Calpurnia, she did a draft and one polish. She completed her next book with a draft and two polishes.
Kip’s method for doing a first draft depends on the project. Backyard Brawl had a quick turnaround time (90,000 words in six weeks) so he had to write quickly. He got up at 4:30 a.m. each day, wrote 1,000 words, went to work, worked out and then wrote another 1,000 words. He wrote carefully, so the end copy was pretty clean, requiring little revision. With his Floyd Patterson [click the red “Read More” button to continue] book, he had to take a while to figure out what the story was going to be. Chasing the Rodeo was a memoir, so that was a different kind of writing.
Greg spoke to the difference between non-fiction and fiction. Non-fiction for him is a matter of putting pieces together on the paper, according to the proposal submitted. It also requires a lot of research. Fiction is like following characters around to see what they are going to do. He does lots of journaling for fiction, writing down snippets of scenes or dialogue in the form of one-liners.
Greg also made the distinction between writing and typing. He writes all the time in his head, mulling over things, thinking about what characters and scenes. Those kind of thins make it into his journal. Typing is when he actually sits at the computer. Being a professor, he writes many shorter, non-fiction pieces during school. At winter break and through the summer are times he types his fiction, often going away to do so. (A method he said wouldn’t work if he had small children or a significant other.)
These are 2 of the 4 questions asked. Check back next Thursday for the other