Updated: Mar 2, 2020
The Writer's Workout is starting a new series of profiles where every few weeks we post an interview we've done with one of our members about their writing process. Writers learn by talking to other writers. With this series, we hope you can learn something new about your process by looking at what others are doing. This week's profile is with Julie Kusma.
WW: The writing process is different for each writer. Some view it as the place they write, what resources or software they use, or their setup, while others see it as being the steps you use while writing such as brainstorming, outlining, writing a first draft, revising and editing. How would you describe your writing process?
JK: For me, the writing process is pretty organized. Once I have an idea, I write down the story concept. Using this story concept as my template, I create an outline of key events that need to happen. This outline allows me to see where foreshadowing best fits in, and what needs to occur within the story for it to feel cohesive. With the outline in hand, I write the first draft, edit, revise, sometimes change the starting point, and sometimes change the POV. Not an easy task once the first draft is done, but I have done it. Then I revise and edit again, and again, and again.
WW: How do you get started? Where do you get ideas from? What inspires you?
JK: Well, this is interesting- for me, if an idea doesn’t immediately pop into my mind, I attempt to brainstorm. And by attempt I mean I try to reason something out- that doesn’t usually provide great results. However, if I am patient, a story concept will just pop into my mind. For example, during the Writer’s Games 2017 Individual portion, we received the event prompt on Friday night. I read over the core concepts, and the event concept then slept on it. When I woke up, the story concept was in my mind fully developed, and I began with my writing process mentioned above. That is how I moved through the seven events- it was fun and inspiring.
WW: Do you create an outline before you start writing? If so, do you ever stray from it while writing?
JK: I do create a rough outline. It is more of a map of the events from point A to point Z. The details organically unfold during the actual writing process. I have strayed from the original intent of a story concept during the writing process. Sometimes a fantastic idea is just there and needs incorporating, but typically, the road map (story concept outlined) stays true to original idea as far as the destination is concerned, but detours, road blocks, even scenic routes might find their way into the process.
WW: Is there a genre you prefer?
JK: The easier way to answer this for me is to say that I don’t think I would like to write Fantasy. I have never tried, but in general, it doesn’t appeal to me. Probably my favorite genre is Magical Realism.
WW: How would you describe your voice or style?
JK: I suppose I do, but I have never tried to determine what it is. My writings are diverse, and so, my particular style as a writer may be difficult to discern. Mainly, I let the story dictate the style, tone, and POV.
WW: Do you have an audience in mind when you are writing?
JK: Of course. The audience may be vague, but if I am writing a Middle-Grade novel, appropriateness of the subject matter must be kept in mind. If writing a mystery novel, then the expectations of the mystery reader (conventions of the mystery genre) must be kept in mind.
WW: How do authors who write in a similar genre as you influence your writing?
JK: I read a lot, so I suppose all of those authors have influenced my writing. Although, I do have one example of a specific influence: While taking a course on the English language, I selected Dr. Seuss as my final project’s research subject. After completing my final project, I was inspired to write a non-rhyming nonsense poem as a children’s book. My mind was so geared toward thinking like Seuss, writing a Seuss-like story seemed natural.
WW: What part of your process would you change?
JK: I can be a bit moody about my writing. I have days where I pump out page after page, and then other days where I stare at the blank page. I would be more consistent in my writing if the magic wand is being waved in my direction.
WW: Are there a set of circumstances you need for you to write? Specific location? Music?
JK: Mainly silence. I do not like background noise of any kind. Well, I guess as I am sitting here answering these questions I can hear my clock ticking, but I have an obsession for clocks, so the ticking is soothing. Near my desk, I have a Felix the Cat clock and a crazy caterpillar clock. Just two of the many weird things decorating my writing space.
WW: Describe your editing process.
JK: Wow, in one word-painful. Just kidding, well not really. Editing takes a couple of forms. First I style edit for congruency within the story—does it make sense, are all of the components present, does it flow smoothly? Once the story is “tight,” line editing begins for grammatical issues. At this point, a novel would be ready for my Beta reader group.
WW: How do you stay motivated?
JK: I love to read. I love to write. It is easy for me to stay excited about writing because I enjoy it. I will say, however, that long projects can weigh me down sometimes. I am working on completing a teen novel for an agent request, and it is taking a while because I am finishing my Masters of Art in English Creative Writing, and that occupies a lot of my time. I have a bunch of new story ideas, but I have to finish the novel. That can feel like a downward pull, so I have to remind myself to push forward and get it done.
Julie lives in Prospect, Kentucky and is pursuing a Master of Arts in English, Creative Writing-Fiction. She is a member of SCBWI, Sigma Tau Delta’s International English Honor Society, and The National Society of Leadership and Success’ Sigma Alpha Pi chapter.