I love Leigh Bardugo. She just spouts off wisdom like a teapot, and I always look forward to her events, Twitter chats, livestreams, etc. because I know I'm going to learn something new. It just so happens that Monica Sanz (@MonicaBSanz), Rebecca Sky (@RebeccaSky), Erin Latimer(@ELatimerWrites), and Leah Crichton (@LDCrichton) of the Wattpad4 hosted a Twitter chat with Leigh back in November and I was lucky enough to catch it.
As always, I'm not recapping what happened play-by-play, but instead highlighting what I found to be the most interesting & insightful moments. But... it was a short chat, so this is pretty comprehensive. ;D
Tell us why/how you started writing, and what inspired you to write the Grisha trilogy.
I was born of poor but honest folk... Erm, this is a tough one. Always wanted to be a writer, trick was finishing a book. I had a bad habit of starting strong and then just fizzling out. I needed to find my process (for me it's outlining). I'm going to tell you what EVERYONE tells you, banish perfection! Write a dreadful, messy, shoddy first draft but FINISH. I think we get a little too hung up on inspiration or THE BIG IDEA. The first idea is easy, first act is easy. The trick isn't falling in love, it's staying in love.
What does worldbuilding look like for you?
For me, worldbuilding breaks down into:
1. Sense of Order
2. Sense of Place
Sense of order is all about power—magical, personal, political—and that comes first for me. Sense of Place (language, food, customs, even mythology) comes later and through research.
But again, just as with structure, this is about finding YOUR way, your process. But... BUT...
DO NOT USE WORLDBUILDING TO HIDE FROM THE DRAFT. No amount of planning will reveal what telling the story does.
Do you have a writing process once you begin a new story?
My process starts with an idea, then a very rough (one page) outline. This becomes the zero draft.
The Zero Draft is a mess, somewhere between an outline and a first draft, full of placeholders, false starts, questions. To give you an idea, the zero draft of Six of Crows was 30k long. The final draft was over 130k long. That first draft is the barest sketch of scenes, moments, bits of dialogue – then I just keep adding, moving from what I don't know to what I know. Eventually, it's a book and it's time to print and revise longhand.
But let me stress this: everyone is different. You must find the process that works for you, and no matter your process, you will have good days when you feel like a genius, and bad days when you feel like a fraud.
What achievements are you most proud of & why?
Oh mannnnnn. I think that I didn't give up. Because the world loves to pat "successful" artists on the back, but when you're coming up and struggling, not so much. I didn't write my first book at 20. I had a lot of terrible jobs before I got to have my dream job. There is no expiration date on your talent. KEEP GOING. Our job as artists is to keep making art when no one seems to care. That's the fight.
And Leigh's #1 industry tip for new novelists?
Oh um. Well, probably spend less time on Twitter?