Sunday, May 21, 2006

One Writer's Process: Randy Powell

Randy Powell gets guys.

He gets them in the deepest way possible, revealing their emotional vulnerabilities while probing their foibles, fears, and frustrations as they journey into manhood.

It's not always an easy journey, but in Powell's hands the journey is often lightened with a sense of humor and softened by the welcome presence of well-crafted female characters.

The author of a number of fine YA novels (My Underrated Year ; Dean Duffy; Is Kissing A Girl Who Smokes Like Licking An Ashtray; Whistling Toilets; Tribute to Another Dead Rock Star; and Three Clams and an Oyster), Powell was in the midst of a writing project when we asked for his comments on writing.

Here are some of the thoughts that he shared with Wordswimmer:

Right now I’m deep into finishing a novel, so of course I’m not thinking too much about process at the moment. I’m just doing it and getting it done.

When I get up in the morning, I make coffee and go in and get to work. I have a sense of direction and purpose, so it’s a good time right now.

Usually, the time I think deeply about process is the time between books. And then I do devote a lot of time to questions (Why am I doing this? Is there a better way to do this, or, at least, a more effective way?) and to finding the balance between writing one sentence at a time versus figuring out the premise and the whole big picture.

What I’ve found is that every time I finish a book (or at least put it aside for a while) and start up a new one, I go through the same paradoxical battles

Each book seems to have to find its own way to get written.

However, one thing I have learned--trust my early drafts more.

Don’t be so quick to assume they’re shit.

It’s always been my method to Just Get Something Down--Anything.

But now I’m really trying to learn to pay attention to what’s there and to shut up and listen to it.

By shut up, I mean mostly all the self talk and criticism that goes on when you are writing an exploratory draft.

This is all I have time to say right now.

Good luck to you.

For more info about Powell and his work, check his website: as well as this brief bio:


jo'r said...

On a rainy Sunday morning it's good to find a new wordswimmer post up and waiting. And a peek into Randy Powell's thoughts on writing is grand stuff. I've read all of Randy's books, and particularly enjoyed his last one, "Three Clams and an Oyster." It's good to hear he's working on another novel--I keep checking every once in a while on our library's online catalog, looking for the next book.

I agree with wordswimmer that Randy does seem to connect with a wide range of a guy's vulnerabilities, foibles, fears and frustrations, and develops well crafted female characters to color those journeys. It's encouraging to hear his stress on how important it is for him to just get something down, anything, for that first draft, and to trust them more. Until you're as good as he is, that's a leap of faith, but we probably wouldn't be writing if we didn't have loads of that.

I'll keep a watch out for his next novel.

Barbara W. Klaser said...

"Each book seems to have to find its own way to get written."

So that's my problem with this one. I expected it to be like the others. Come to think of it, each of those was a little different, too.

Great article. Thank you.