I tend to write the way I run – one day I’m doing four miles and feeling fine, the next day I’m watching episodes of Hoarders and counting the walk back and forth from the refrigerator as exercise.
When I’m in first draft mode, I’ll write every day for hours straight, getting the bones of the story on paper. This is when I feel like I’m sprinting – my fingers are flying, my brain can’t wait to get to the next page, and I’m probably ingesting a bunch of calories because I like to snack while I write.
Once I’ve got the first draft done, the revision routine is more like the days that walking to the fridge counts. Revision goes a bit more slowly for me. I outline what I’ve already written, then I work through the outline, cutting unnecessary scenes, expanding plot lines, and working on where I want the story to go. Once I find my pace, or in this case – once I figure out how the main plot and subplots will all work together – I feel like I’m winning the revision race. Until then, it feels like the worst race I ever ran, (which, incidentally, is the four mile one where I was passed by a girl on crutches half-way through. Awful.)
The first draft of Hot Ticket took about six weeks to write, in the Fall of 2008. Revising took much, much longer. I wasn’t revising the whole time, but the final version of Hot Ticket that’s out now was finished in the Spring of 2010, and I published in May of 2011.
Most of my research was just thinking back to my own time as a sixth grader. We didn’t have hot tickets, but I do remember the way that scrunchies had become a status symbol. (Yes, I still have my scrunchie from The Limited.) I also thought about the books I used to read (all the Nancy Drews I could find), what I wanted to be when I grew up (a journalist, a meteorologist, a fashion designer and/or a writer) and the way that the sixth grade hierarchy worked (see: scrunchie status, kickball ability, number of boys that like you at any one point in time.)
Usually, I’ll have a flash of inspiration – either a character starts “talking” to me, or a “what if?” situation will come into my head, and then I’ll quickly write out a page or two. Sometimes it’s just a page or two of the character explaining themselves, sometimes it’s a brief plot outline. Then, it’s time to write a first draft!
When you read something and start to get an emotional reaction. That’s how you know you’ve captured a real feeling on the page – I love that. (Worst part is when you read something and you have an immediate emotional reaction… of disgust. It’s amazing how you read a page one day and think, “This is the best thing I’ve ever written!” and then next day you read the same page and think, “This isn’t even good enough to be kindling!”)
I tend to write from page one straight through, and revise by storylines. So, each time I go through a revision, I might be looking for one or two major things, and I’ll go through the book looking just for that. Then I’ll go through it again for two other issues, etc. Each time I go through the book though, the amount of work gets smaller. So the first revision is like going through the book with a wrecking ball, the second is like using a jack hammer, and the last may be like using a toothpick.
About Tracy Marchini:
Tracy Marchini is a freelance writer and editorial consultant. Before launching her own editorial service, she worked at a Manhattan literary agency, as a children’s book reviewer, a newspaper correspondent and a freelance copywriter. She may also be known as the worst kickball player to ever grace her schoolyard. More information about her and her critique services can be found at her website.