Writing fiction isn’t easy; writing in multiple fiction genres is definitely not easy, but Jenny Fulton is making it work. Writer of YA and children’s books, today she’s talking with me about how she writes.
Welcome, and thank you so much for being here today! Let’s start with genre: how did you pick yours?
I think my genre picked me, or God led me to it. Without ever having written an entire book, I was hired to write a YA Speculative Fantasy novel. Through this process, I realized how much I really enjoy tying in the supernatural elements to the physical ones.
Looking back, I can see how this interest has nearly always been there. When I was young, I collected angels and loved fairy tales. This inclusion of the spiritual seems to show up in anything I write now. I’m currently working on some children’s books that merge angels and fairies, and writing a Bible study on the book of 1 Corinthians that highlights of the work of the Spirit.
What’s the most difficult part of writing your genre? How do you work through those challenges?
With children’s books, the difficult part is a creating simple, meaningful, and endearing story that both children and adults will enjoy. The word count is limited and descriptions are left more for an illustrator to bring out than for the writer to describe. Since I’m not an illustrator, I’m left with the options of either pay to have someone illustrate my books and go the self-publishing route or depend upon the books getting picked up by a publisher who will find the illustrator. Either way, I’m dependent on others in order for my books to be published.
As far as the Speculative genre, I think the most difficult part of that is giving myself permission to not be completely theologically accurate with the depictions of angelic and demonic figures. I want to communicate an idea and a spiritual truth through them and not worry about the accuracy. For example, when I was young, I loved the idea of beautiful, delicate guardian angels as depicted in some of the paintings. Now, are angels these delicate fairy-like creatures or are they strong masculine warriors? Does it matter? When I was young, they represented a security in knowing God was with me. This is the ultimate truth I want to communicate in my Speculative genre, regardless of what form His presence takes.
What’s your writing day like?
I have three young girls ages 7, 3, and 21 months, so my writing times are very limited. I wake up at 5 am and, on the good days, I have until 6 am before my girls wake up. Sometimes, depending on the project and how the morning goes, I’m able to think about what I want to write about so that by the time naptime/quiet time rolls around in the afternoon, I already have an idea of what I’m going to write about. I can usually get about an hour in during the afternoon, but with my 7-year-old hanging out with me, there’s no guarantee of how much uninterrupted focused time I’ll have. So, I work with what I have, do what I can, and try not to put pressure on myself to do more. I’ll have plenty of time to write as they get older.
How do you combat writer’s block?
I try not to put too much pressure or stress on myself. I find that the more pressure and expectations I place upon myself, the more likely I am to get blocked. I remind myself that God has always given me what I need when I need it, and this includes the time and words to write. Sometimes when I’m blocked, I’ll talk to other writers and artists, or take a break to do some reading for fun. Some days, I need to put away any thoughts of writing and just rest.
How do you prepare to write your books: pantser, plotter, both, something completely different?
I usually outline first to get an idea of where I’m going with the story and why my main point or goal in writing the story is, and then within each scene do a free-write to get my ideas on paper and try to communicate the scene that’s playing out in my head.
Now my favorite part of the writing process—editing! Have you ever worked with a freelance editor? How did you find that editor, and how would you describe the experience?
I found my editor on a Facebook writer’s group, looked her up, looked at her work, and emailed her to find out about her rates. It has been a great experience. She has edited a couple of my children’s books at a very reasonable price and provided some great feedback.
How do you self-edit your manuscript?
I usually read my work out loud because I find that I catch more errors that way. I tend to skim more when I read silently, but reading out loud forces me to slow down and notice errors I would otherwise miss. It also helps me determine how well the writing flows. If it doesn’t come smoothly from my tongue, then I need to change something.
What does your revision process look like?
As I read my work out loud, I make notes about what I want to change or add. For the YA Fantasy books, I read them out loud to my husband and made notes about his feedback. Then I went back and started making the adjustments. Sometimes, if I was doing some major revisions, I’d check with him afterward to see if the revisions were working.
With her quarter-Navajo blood, Jenny’s been referred to by family members as a “white Navajo.” Her full-blood Navajo grandma grew up on the Navajo reservation and married a full-blood German missionary. Jenny grew up hearing stories of the supernatural workings, especially as they revealed themselves on the reservation. As a child, she collected angels and loved anything related to fairy tales.
As an adult, she’s a published YA fantasy author and freelance writer with a B.S. in elementary education, an endorsement in K-12 ESL, and over ten years of experience teaching in a variety of cultural and educational settings, both abroad and in the United States. Her days are now spent raising three young daughters and writing as much as time and opportunity allow.