Hi! Today I’m interviewing my fabulous critique partner, Kathleen Foucart.
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where you are in your writing journey? What are you currently working on?
Hi Jess’s readers! I’m Kathleen Foucart, one of Jess’s critique partners & a newly-agented writer. I’m represented by Irene Skolnick of The Irene Skolnick Literary Agency. I’m currently in that post-agented, pre-sale (I hope!) phase, which is basically like being in the pre-agented phase, but now I have someone else worrying about things like submission details and follow-ups. 🙂
My current project is a YA historical fantasy set in a Regency-era world titled THE TIES OF BLOOD. You can read more details about it, and a small excerpt on my website, as well as details about my other projects. And if you want to hear me whinge about that revision, you can follow me on Twitter or keep up with my blog.
2. Where do you write? Home office, on the couch, coffee shop?
I used to adore writing in coffee shops, and at one in particular, but in the last year or so my tendonitis has gotten too bad for me to work on my laptop without my USB ergonomic keyboard, which is HUGE. So I’m mostly a house-writer now, but I spend my time flitting between working on my couch, my desk, my dining room table and, like now, the bed in my office. I’ve also been known to grit my teeth, strap on my wrist braces & work in the car on long trips, but I try to only do that anymore if I have something that needs done ASAP.
3. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what’s on your current playlist?
I am a huge advocate of music-while-writing. My TTOB playlist currently boasts 233 songs, but here are a few that really speak to the plot & characters:
Kelly Clarkson’s “Beautiful Disaster” (This is the theme song for one of my narrators)
Staind “It’s Been Awhile” (The other narrator’s theme song)
Lifehouse “From Where You Are”
Johnny Cash “Hurt”
Vedera “Even I”
Chopin’s “Nocturne in C minor, Op. Posthumus: Andante sostenuto”
“If I Can’t Love Her” from Beauty & the Beast: The Broadway Musical
The Civil Wars “Poison & Wine”
Flogging Molly “The Worst Day Since Yesterday”
Faith Hill “Cry”
U2 “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”
4. How do you write? Laptop, desktop, by hand? Scrivener or Word or something else?
Typing is technically fastest for me, but like I said above: I’ve got tendonitis. So I’ve been trying to give my hands a bit of a break by writing some by hand. I also technically have voice recognition software, but I get totally tongue-tied when I try to talk my stories, so I try to reserve that for typing up plotting notes or other things that don’t involve me saying “open quotes, comma, close quotes” every other line. And I use Word– I love the idea of Scrivener or another program like Black Liquid Story Binder, but I keep coming back to Word.
5. Do you outline or pre-plot in some other way? Do you brainstorm visually with Pinterest or something else?
I do a combination of pantsing (no outline/no pre-plotting) and plotting. So far, I’ve never had an “idea” for a plot and been able to finish that manuscript. So what I do is wait for a character to show up and make me listen to them– this method has gotten me four complete manuscripts, so I have no problems with it. However, once I have that character and their basic situation (usually I figure this out through completing a first draft), I go back and do some pretty serious revision which involves outlining, using beat sheets, writing up scene cards, and basically anything else I have to do to make the finished, submit-able manuscript as close to the vision of the book I have in my head as possible.
I used to save pictures to my computer that inspired my characters/world/etc., but now I mostly do use Pinterest, and you can find my boards here.
6. Do you write chronologically or skip around? Dialogue or description first? Do you tend toward over-writing or under-writing in first drafts? Edit painstakingly as you go or embace a quick first draft? Stop for the day mid-scene or at the end of chapters?
I write chronologically from the first scene that comes to me until I can’t think of what happens next. If I have another scene in mind, I skip to that and write it. If I’m working on a scene with a lot of back and forth between characters, I’m usually light on description, but if I’m writing a more introspective scene, I do put in a bit more description– but usually description is a second-draft layering detail for me. Setting is not one of my first draft strong suits!
I strongly lean to over-writing my first drafts. For my completed manuscripts, the first drafts have weighed in at 126,814 (which bumped up to 130,194 in the second draft!), 113,431, 128,194, and 111,135. I have since gotten those first three numbers down to 105,898, 74,438, and 105,154.
I try not to edit while I’m drafting, even if I change something somewhat major partway through. I learned that for me and my process, if I go back and tinker, it’s mostly a waste of time, because I won’t really know what I was trying to say until I’ve gotten to the end (and even then, I probably need another draft or two to really get it). Plus lately I’ve been flinging huge portions of the book out and replacing them with completely different scenes, so for me, I’d rather get to know the character/world first and play with the details later.
I haven’t been writing a lot of scenes the last couple weeks (I’m mid-revision-plotting), but usually I try to get to a decent stopping point, whether it’s where I run out of thoughts or the end of that particular chapter.
7. Do you have any must-have snacks or drinks for writing time? Any other rituals to set the scene?
I used to chug lots of coffee, but some of my medications have made that impossible lately. So now I get a short or tall latte as a treat some days, but mostly I have a bottle of water and something chocolate-y to munch on as I go. My only other rituals are closing internet windows and turning on music and some sort of crime show (I highly favor original Law & Order) to minimize distractions.
8. Is there a time you write best? Morning *Jess shudders* or late at night? Do you need long stretches of time, or can you maximize twenty minutes here and there?
Mid-afternoon seems to be a good time for me, but if I’m on a roll I can go all day if my wrists cooperate. I used to be able to write whenever/wherever, but now I have to have a little more focus, at least when I’m revising.
9. Do you have critique partners? How did you find them? How does your relationship work?
I do! Ms. Jessica Spotswood is my closest crit partner, and somehow we stumbled across each other online, offered to do some reading for each other, and wound up really clicking in terms of how we critique and our personalities. Mostly we send each other stuff whenever we need eyes on it, depending on our timetables and amount of flailing we’re doing 😉 I’ll also read for a number of other writers I’ve met online or through my MFA program, but those are usually finished drafts, and not on as regular of a basis.
I also have an in-person critique group that I meet with regularly, consisting of Janelle Madigan and Amelia Ross. I met them in writing workshops at Hollins University where we’ve all gotten our MFAs in Children’s Literature. We’ve been together for about five years now, so we know each other’s strengths/weaknesses very well, and also have seen each other’s growth. It’s pretty cool to have been working with people so long and to have seen how much better we’ve all gotten.
10. What do you struggle with in writing? (the endless godawful waaaaaaiting, twitter distractions, etc) How do you cope with that?
Most recently I struggled with how I felt so completely stuck while I was querying. I knew the manuscript I’d sent out was SO much better than the previous ones I’d queried, and I was getting lots of requests, but always the same feedback “I like it but I don’t love it enough”– so frustrating! And also not something concrete for me to work on, which, I think for me and my perfectionist ways, was hardest. Coping with that… honestly, it was very difficult, as I also was struggling with my long-standing fight with depression. I finally asked my doctor for medication which helped ease a lot of my anxiety and get me back on track. About a month and a half later, I got the email from Miriam (my agent before Irene, who has since left agenting), who did love ACCURSED enough to want to take it, and me, on.
I also have a fantastic support network in terms of my critique partners & beta readers, my husband & family and my co-workers (some of them are beta readers for me!), and having them all cheer me on really helps.
11. What’s your favorite thing about writing?
That moment when things just click— even if with that realization, half or all of a draft needs to go. If it makes the finished product better, it’s all worth it.
Another favorite is having readers (right now my CPs & friends) say they love my stories, of course! It’s always pretty awesome to hear people gush about what they love in a book and to realize you gave them that feeling.
12. Anything else you’d like to tell us about your process that’s unusual, or important to you?
Haven’t I already talked enough?!? (Can you tell I’m an over-writer? Ha!)
In all honesty, the absolute most important thing I’ve found is to keep going. If you want to be a writer, you’ve got to fight for it. No one is just going to hand it to you, and there are no short cuts. Not to any part of writing– from drafting to revising to querying. Once you accept that… it’s not easier, but it’s easier to keep going.
Yay! Thanks so much for sharing your process with us, Katie!