The Writing Process Blog Tour

Have you ever been on a blog tour? This is my first time being part of one. Blame Chil­dren’s Poet Lau­re­ate, Kenn Nes­bitt. He’s the one who roped me into this! Seri­ous­ly, though, I’m hap­py to join the My Writ­ing Process Blog Tour. I hope you can take some­thing mean­ing­ful from my respons­es to the four ques­tions posed.


bk_bronxAs always, I’m jug­gling projects. I seem to be aller­gic to work­ing on one man­u­script at a time.

First, I’m waist-deep into a Bronx Mas­quer­ade sequel, which means I’m too far in to turn back, but not so far that I’ve ceased shak­ing in my boots for fear I won’t be able to live up to my own expec­ta­tions, let alone the expec­ta­tions of my fans. Yikes! But I press on.

I’m also work­ing on a nov­el-in-verse for Boyds Mills, pub­lish­er of Words With Wings.

Planet Middle SchoolLast­ly, I’m writ­ing a mid­dle-grade col­lec­tion of poet­ry inspired by poems/poets of the Harlem renais­sance. This last is for Blooms­bury, pub­lish­er of my nov­el-in-verse Plan­et Mid­dle School.


First of all, I work in more than one genre, so there’s that! Besides that, I’m not sure this ques­tion is answer­able, at least not by me. I know that my work is dis­tinct, per­haps in part because it is char­ac­ter-dri­ven. Or per­haps it is that my poet­ry is com­pact, yet always deliv­ers an emo­tion­al punch. Yes. That’s it. In any case, it is this aspect of my work that is most often com­ment­ed on, so let’s go with that.


In gen­er­al, I look for sub­ject mat­ter that allows me to address those issues I feel affect the lives of young read­ers, and that I believe need to be dis­cussed and explored. I wrote The Road to Paris because I did­n’t find many books tack­ling the often-dif­fi­cult expe­ri­ences of chil­dren caught up in the fos­ter-care system.

Road to Paris Almost Zero Words with Wings

I wrote Almost Zero: A Dya­monde Daniel Book to address the sub­ject of enti­tle­ment because I see this trend every­where, and it dis­turbs me. I felt com­pelled to speak into it.

I wrote Words With Wings because I fear this gen­er­a­tion has for­got­ten the val­ue of day­dream­ing and I’m hop­ing my book will spark dis­cus­sion of this top­ic, and per­haps inspire a bit of day­dream­ing, along the way.

Chasing FreedomSome­times, of course, I write a book sim­ply because a cer­tain sto­ry cap­tures my imag­i­na­tion or curios­i­ty. Chas­ing Free­dom, a book com­ing out next year with Orchard Books, is one such title. It’s an imag­ined con­ver­sa­tion between Har­ri­et Tub­man and Susan B. Antho­ny, inspired by my fas­ci­na­tion with both women, and the fact that their extra­or­di­nary lives hap­pened to have inter­sect­ed, a fact which still gives me tingles!


Every book is dif­fer­ent. Since I write across gen­res, and age ranges, there is no one, con­sis­tent pat­tern to the way I work. How­ev­er, I sup­pose there are a few commonalities.

Let’s see: I focus on writ­ing a com­plete draft before I do any edit­ing. In fact, I muz­zle my inter­nal edi­tor dur­ing that orig­i­nal draft. She is not invit­ed to the par­ty, nor is she allowed to speak until I begin work on the sec­ond draft! From then on, I’m in revi­sion mode.

With each draft, I try to focus on some­thing spe­cif­ic through­out, whether that’s tense agree­ment, con­vert­ing plain prose into more lyri­cal lan­guage, or trans­form­ing infor­ma­tion­al pas­sages into more dynam­ic dia­logue, and so on. With each pass, I’m hon­ing in on one par­tic­u­lar element.

I revise and tweak an annoy­ing amount—just ask my edi­tors! As a rule, I know I’m done when I find myself mak­ing changes that are no longer improvements.

What else? Hmmm. As a rule, I don’t try to write sequen­tial­ly. I approach my sto­ries like jig­saw puz­zles. I con­cen­trate on devel­op­ing the indi­vid­ual pieces of a sto­ry, then fig­ure out how those pieces best fit togeth­er. This approach keeps me from feel­ing over­whelmed, espe­cial­ly if the sto­ry I’m work­ing on is quite com­plex, with lots of mov­ing parts. (This saved me from los­ing my mind when I wrote Bronx Mas­quer­ade, a nov­el in 18 voic­es!) In fact, this approach helps me when writ­ing pic­ture book texts, as well. It cer­tain­ly aid­ed me while I worked on Poems in the Attic, a Lee & Low title that comes out this fall. Okay! I think that’s it for process. If you want to get any more out of me, you’ll have to attend one of my work­shop intensives!

I hope you’ll read Kenn Nes­bit­t’s arti­cle, my pre­de­ces­sor in this Writ­ing Process Blog Tour.


One Response

  1. Hi Nik­ki,

    Your love­ly per­son­al­i­ty shines through all parts of your blog! I’ve enjoyed pok­ing around and espe­cial­ly learn­ing more about your writ­ing process. I love the jig­saw puz­zle analogy!

    I would love to sub­scribe to your occa­sion­al blog, Nik­ki Sounds Off, if that option ever becomes available.

    Bless­ings, Sister.

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