Please welcome Krysten Lindsay Hager, whose new YA book is called Next Door to a Star. She admits how thoughts of writing pervade her every waking moment. Boy, can I relate to that!
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Writing: The Job You Never Turn Off
by Krysten Lindsay Hager
People think being a writer must mean that I play make believe all day and spend long hours on the couch watching bad daytime TV. In reality, writing isn’t a job you fit in when you have time to pick up a pen or get to a computer—it’s a job you never walk away from. If you’ve seen most writers’ computers you’ll notice several tabs open at all times. Now imagine what our minds are like! It’s like a million ideas swirling at all times—new plots, themes, how to rework the ones we already have churning in their minds, and then rewriting something we’ve already sent to the editor. Even going out for the night doesn’t take us away from the work.
Before I wrote my latest young adult novel, Next Door to a Star, I went to the beach towns I write about several times. I scouted out Grand Haven, Michigan (the main setting for the book) to check out the beach, shops, pier, and downtown where my character, Hadley, and her friends hang out. I also went to Saugatuck, Michigan where the Hadley and Asia go on a day trip and run into the rock star Hadley has a crush on. When I was in Grand Haven, my friend was looking forward to spending some time in the sun. So while she was catching some rays, I had mapped out where my characters would be going so I could see if how I planned a scene for the book would actually work in reality…right down to the actual steps the characters (Simone and Hadley) would take on the pier.
On another visit, while my husband was taking in the sun, I was taking in the sites and jotting down notes and taking pictures with my phone so I could capture the scene exactly from every single angle. To look at my phone gallery you’d think I took a million pictures of the same scenery to get one decent picture, but nope. I needed to see that scene from every possible angle so I could go back to my laptop and recreate the setting in the book. It helps me to go in person to see the downtown where Simone (the former teen TV star) would go to get her hair down with Hadley and where they’d run into her ex getting pizza with a new girl—an older high school girl. Then, I take all my pictures so I can plot out where the girls go and make sure I have the landmarks in the right order for anyone who reads the book who is familiar with the area.
Later, I went to shops my characters would visit and imagined where their conversations would take place—like when Charlotte and Hadley are invited out with the popular girls and feel out of their element. I sat on a bench to emails notes to myself so I didn’t forget anything all while Instagraming shots to my followers of places they could expect to see in my next novel.
When we made a snack stop, I saw an ice cream place across from the beach that I needed to go into. My husband said, “You want ice cream?” And I replied no, I didn’t, but my Hadley and Simone might want some and I needed to see the setup of the store. So he got some ice cream to give me an excuse to scout out the place and jot down details.
People don’t always realize all the details that go into creating a scene, but I like to take the reader right into the world that I am creating. I’m always on the lookout for something that will add to the story, make it richer, and bring you into my character’s world. Sure it means I can’t turn my brain off from writing, but I assure you, I had just as much fun that day researching and scouting out places for my book as someone who sat in the sun enjoying the beach.
Watch the Next Door to a Star Book Trailer:
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