Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mindy McGinnis, Not a Drop to Drink

What is writing and publishing a novel like? Hardest part? Best part? Tips?
It's much harder than anyone imagines. If you want to have a career, then most likely you will need to be traditionally published. Which generally means you need an agent, which in turn means you need to know how to write a query letter, and what agents represent what genres. There's a whole industry you need to learn in order to gain your footing towards publication, and that's without mentioning the craft of actually writing. 

It took me ten years and five finished novels before I landed an agent. And that's something people outside of the industry don't understand. And to be fair, I don't expect them to. But at the same time it's a little frustrating when you've spent that amount of work (and a third of your life) working towards something and someone says to you, "Oh. I thought you just printed it out and mailed it to the publishers and they made it into a book for you." Um, no.

All that being said - it's totally possible to succeed. I am a farmer's daughter. I never took a writing class in my life. I had zero contacts in the industry. I still made it. You just have to work your ass off.

What advice do you have for teen writers?

Get good critique partners and learn how to process criticism. Having your mom read your stuff is fine, but she's going to give you positive feedback, and that's not going to help you grow as a writer. Learn how to accept it when someone criticizes your work, and then learn what parts of their criticism to implement. It's not easy! But it's a necessary step.

What inspired you to write Not a Drop to Drink?

I watched a documentary called Blue Gold, which is about a projected shortage of potable water on our planet due to overpopulation. It was a horrible thought—we all need water to survive, and it’s something we can’t make. I went to bed very grateful for the small pond in my backyard, and that night I dreamt I was teaching a young girl how to operate a rifle so that she could help me protect the pond. I woke up and thought, “Hey… I wrote a book in my head just now.”

There were some unlikely friendships in Not a Drop to Drink, how have you observed social class, age, gender, religion, and/or political affiliation affecting friendships? What made you write unique friendships?

I think friendships are much more enduring than romantic relationships. So much more of who we are is a product of them rather than our love interests. I'm a very open person, and I have friends who are both much younger and much older than me, across all spectrums. 

In DRINK, Lynn isn't going to be surrounded by her peers - it just wasn't organic to the story. She also starts life as a very feral individual, and she needed to learn about all aspects of relationships that coalesce to form a whole person. So she learns about friendship and romantic love, but also how to be a nurturer, and how to let someone care about you as well.

The ending. Why did you write it how you did? Most writers are afraid to break from convention the way you did.  What sort of feedback did you get because of your decision?

I don't plan or plot my stories at all. I let the tale tell itself. It decides who lives or dies, not me. That being said, when everything went down at the end I hovered my finger over the delete key and thought, people are going to be mad at you if you do this. Which was followed by, Good.

Yes, people have definitely been upset by it. But that's great! They're having a visceral emotional reaction to something that never happened to people that don't exist. That tells me that it worked.

If you could give Lynn any piece of advice at any point in the novel what would you tell her?

I don't know, honestly. I think she handles herself really well. I'm more likely to need tips from her.
~Mindy McGinnis

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