How long have you been an SCBWI member?
What do you write?
I write middle grade novels. My first published novel is a middle grade mystery fantasy. I’m currently working on a middle grade contemporary.
Where do you like to write?
I move around with my laptop, which sits on my owl lap desk. My lap desk has cheesy, but wise owl sayings such as believe in hoo you are and owl about love.
What are your tools?
My greatest tool is a plotting book called Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Technically, it’s for screenwriters, but a lot of novelists use it. I rely on the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet to keep me on track. I write the novel all on my laptop in Word, and I keep open a separate file with a work-in-progress outline. (I call this an organic outline because I fill it in as I go. The outline is usually not finished until the book is finished.)
What is your process?
My process seems to be this. I outline. I throw it away. I outline again. I throw it away. I outline again. I write 20-40 pages of a book that may or may not have anything to do with the outline. I decide what I’ve written is not going to work. I write 20-40 pages of a different book. I decide that won’t work either. I take a break where I don’t write at all for an undefined period of time. This can be anywhere from a month to a year. January rolls around. (January is a good month for me.) I sit down. I write the book I am actually going to finish. Usually, while writing this book, I outline at the same time. I go back and forth between writing and outlining. I fill in what I write into the outline as I write it in the novel, and sometimes if I’m lucky I know what’s coming next. If I know, I fill it in, if I don’t know, I try to figure it out through writing more in the novel.
What is the easiest thing about writing for you?
Revising. Once I have a draft, I’m good to go. Before I have a draft, it’s a struggle.
What is the hardest thing about writing for you?
Well, the first hardest thing is knowing what book I will really stick to finishing. Part of this is pushing aside the Doubt Monster and worries about what other people might think, and the other part is just finding a book I personally believe in enough to devote a few years of my life to crafting. The second hardest thing is actually finishing that first draft.
What is the best piece of writing advice you have gotten?
To enjoy the journey and let go of the outcome. I’ve heard this advice in various forms over the years at SCBWI conferences. My husband calls it Flow. To be in the flow, I try to enjoy every step of the process of writing, even the dreaded days where I struggle to get out a first draft, or the days where I don’t write at all. It’s all part of my process, and it’s my process that brings me joy. I try to celebrate the every day part of the journey.
Edith Cohn is the author of Spirit’s Key (FSG/ Macmillan), a middle grade mystery about a girl and her ghost dog, which received a starred review from Booklist and was chosen as a top Mighty Girl book for tweens and teens. Visit her online at http://www.edithcohn.com.