It’s SPRING! Have some flowers and pollen!


Nothing says spring like a blog hop, so when the lovely Marci Curtis asked if I wanted to join in with some other MLLAers, I couldn’t say no!

Here’s a look inside my super official, incredibly fancy writing process.

Question #1: What am I working on?

This post. NEXT!

Okay sorry. I’m actually not used to talking about my WIPs, probably because deep down I’m afraid I’ll jinx them before they’re fully fledged on paper. But! I can tell you that I’m working on a new middle grade project that I’ve been loving. It’s funny, involves biology and natural history, secret books, museums, a touch and a half of magic, and a girl with a very unique injury.

Question #2: How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The million dollar question! Generally, I think every writer brings their own situated viewpoint to their work. Most of my books have a fairly big element of research/science to them, combined with the most important thing to me, which is VOICE. For example, the MY LIFE IS A ZOO series with Sourcebooks Jabberwocky combines zoology and evolution with Ana’s trademark observant humor. I’m fairly certain I will always be writing about smart, funny kids, and I think my background in some cool fields of science lends itself to unique situations and opportunities for readers to enjoy a story and learn about the world without realizing they’re learning. (I love it when that happens.) Because of this, I think my books fill a special place in libraries, allowing teachers to use fiction to bolster understanding of real life stuff. If my books make kids laugh, I’m happy. If they make kids curious and asking more questions about what they’re reading, that’s incredible!

Question the third: Why do I write what I do?

I’m pretty sure if I didn’t write, I would be walking around building stories and characters in my head anyway. I write the books I do because it’s my way of observing the world, and distilling all sorts of thoughts and scenarios into something tangible. I want my readers to feel like they’re not alone, no matter how weird their lives feel. I also love the feeling of getting entrenched in a project, and trying on different skins and lives. For me, writing about “kid’s stuff” is a way to stay connected to the important, curious parts of life.

Question #4: How does my writing process work? Michael Scott understands:


This changes with every book, but the one thing that stays the same is research and character work. Because I like to fill my books with interesting backdrops to hang the story from, this usually means I’ll research a field until I feel like I can work it into the story as seamlessly as possible. I’ll read books, spend time online, go on virtual tours, visit real places, anything, to get that base established.

At the same time, I’m usually doing character work. I need to know what my characters think they want, and what they actually need, on a moral and psychological level. I get into the nitty gritty stuff of desires and motivation, and what/who is opposing them and their goals. I also need to figure out the range of possibilities I think are present for each character, and how they will change from the beginning of the story to the end. If my character doesn’t change by the end, I know I still have work to do.

The hardest part of the process (for me!) is linking these character arcs to actual plot, in a way that doesn’t seem contrived or forced. Most people can smell when the author peeks through in the writing, so the goal is to avoid that as much as possible! For me, an organic plot has to come from the characters, so aaaallll that character work I did earlier comes into play when I start drafting and outlining. I do outline, but try to do it in a more flexible way. I like to know where I’m going in terms of character revelations , but don’t necessarily need to know how. This leaves me open to new ideas once I’m actually writing. The easiest part (for me) is definitely finding the voice of the character, so I try to let that take over once my notebooks are full of prep work.

The rest? Lots of time spending hacking away at the word doc!

That’s it! If you have any questions, drop me a line in the comments! I could talk about writing process all day (it’s a wonderful form of procrastination), so I’m happy to yammer on if you like!

Don’t forget to check out my agent-mates posts, as well! You’ll find us on Marci’s blog!

What’s your process? Do you outline or dive in head first? Lots of research or fill in the gaps later?


2 thoughts on “MLLA Blog Hop: My Writing Process”

  1. That pesky plot! That’s my trouble, too. I always find things I want to see illustrated, funny characters, silly situations, but figuring out a compelling plot to place them in … that’s the hard part! Blarg!

    Great post, #TeamKRUSH Sis!

  2. I LOVE this, Jess! I think we’re related…plots are my nemesis as well! 😉


    Thanks for the shout-out! <3

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