I think I've really had a writing breakthrough. The part of The New Project I'm working on now involves revising bits I wrote earlier in the summer to fit with the new plan, and I keep seeing ways to really get the full impact out of scenes. Yesterday, I was re-working a scene that my notecard said was a major turning point in the book, the event that would change the main character's life forever and change his perception of himself and everything he thought was true. As written, it was more like, "Oh, my, that's odd," and then he went on with his business. On this revision, I knew I needed to really show how much this affected him, and when I was through writing it, I actually was a little dizzy and shaky, like the character was supposed to be, so I think it worked. I'd worried that outlining to the extent I did would sap the fun out of writing and limit my creativity. When I've seen workshops on storyboarding, it gave me a panicky feeling. But what I'm finding is that if I have the major plot stuff for each scene planned in advance, it seems to free up my creativity for everything else in the scene. I keep coming up with really fun twists on the fly. Before, with my creativity having to focus on what happened next to move the plot forward, it didn't seem to have the time/energy to go any deeper.
However, all this creative work is strangely draining, and I have a massive case of Book Brain. Fortunately, I have another Girlfriends Cyber Circuit entry, so I can let someone else be clever for me. This week's guest is Melissa Walker, the former fashion magazine editor who now writes a series of novels about a teen model. Her new book, Violet in Private, is the third in the series that began with Violet on the Runway.
Everyone knows her as Violet Greenfield, the supposedly cultured and worldly nineteen-year-old with sky-high confidence because she’s done fashion weeks internationally. But the truth is, modeling has done little for Violet’s self-esteem. And now that she’s finally headed to college, she’s terrified that she’ll turn back into that girl who blended into the walls all throughout high school…
Now, the interview:
What inspired you to write this book?
As soon as I started peeking behind the scenes of modeling and fashion as a magazine editor, I knew that I wanted to put a "real girl" in the middle of this crazy world, a girl who would see it from the outside and be like, "Holy crap!" It's an insane environment, so there's lots of fodder for adventure, humor and drama, especially from the point of view of a small town girl who's not yet jaded.
Describe your creative process.
I start with a chapter-by-chapter outline that's pretty sparse--just a few sentences of summary for each one. When I have a book due (I've never finished one and THEN sold it, though I know people do that too), I eat breakfast, then write. I don't allow myself to have lunch until I have 1,000 words on the page--straight through with no revisions. They don't have to be good words, but they have to be there. I do that five days a week; afternoons are spent working on magazine stories. When I finish a draft, THEN I go back and revise, but not before.
Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
I like to start with an iced coffee. It has to have enough cream and sugar in it to taste like coffee ice cream.
How much, if anything, do you have in common with your heroine?
Hmm... quite a bit, honestly. Movie theater job in high school: Check. Hometown of Chapel Hill, NC? Yup. Overwhelmed, at first, by the NYC fashion crowd? Yes! But I was never a model.
So, now we want the inside scoop on the fashion world. For those of us who are somewhat fashion-impaired (I, personally, prefer the term "classic" to "still wearing 20-year-old clothes"), what one item do we need to add to our closets this fall to at least pretend to be in style?
It sounds cliche, but a black dress that fits you well and is flattering is really key! I have six. Is that weird? As far as an accessory for the season goes, I'm really into scarves. French women do it well, and I'm going to experiment a lot this fall. Also: Deep purples are a key color this season. Yay--Violet on the Runway!
Maybe you can answer this burning question: There are model-size models (tall and skinny) and there are plus-size models. Why aren't there any normal-size models who are neither skinny nor plus-sized?
Good question! I think the idea is that "models" originally were normal sized. Over the years, "pin thin" has become such an obsession in the fashion world that the body ideal has been distorted. Truthfully, though, plus size models aren't really very big--a size 8 is easily considered "plus." It's insane!
We hear a lot of the negatives about modeling these days, like eating disorders, drug abuse, short shelf-life, and all that. Are there any positives, aside from the money and international travel? Or did I just answer my own question? :-)
Money and international travel are big draws, but so are the creative people you meet. They are just INSPIRED. I can't think of another word that's more apt. The chance to see that part of the world--both geographically and socially--is priceless.
Chocolate: dark or milk?
Dark! Oh man, I love a little bitterness.
What are you working on now?
I just turned in a draft of a summer teen romance called LOVESTRUCK SUMMER that will come out next summer from HarperCollins.
Is there anything else you'd like to say about this book or the process of writing it?
Just that I think it brings up a lot of really relevant issues about superficiality and image in today's world, and we're discussing all that on readergirlz.com this month on their myspace forum, so come chat!
For more info, visit Melissa's blog. Or buy the book from Amazon.