Megan Miranda on Writing a Book

Megan Miranda has successfully written a gripping, creepy novel–it’s called Fracture, and you can begin reading it for a limited time on Figment here. Fracture is about Delaney Maxwell, a seventeen-year-old who, according to medical science, shouldn’t be alive; she fell through the ice into a frigid lake and was underwater without oxygen for eleven minutes. After her rescue, she emerges from a coma with no outward symptoms of injury–but still, something doesn’t seem quite right. But writing Fracture wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. Below, Megan shares the steps of her journey.

Ah, writing Fracture. It was kind of an adventure. I’m laughing about it now, but I’m pretty sure that’s just because I’m feeling either nostalgic or confused.

But anyway. Before I wrote Fracture, I spent a long time not writing Fracture. Which probably doesn’t seem relevant, but I think it kind of is.

I stopped writing for a while after high school. I had reached that point where I assumed I was supposed to know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to be a scientist and a writer, but I was under the impression that I had to pursue one thing. So I picked.

I picked science, because I figured I could always still write. And I did love it—I was a total science nerd. Actually, I still kind of am. But the more I learned, the more I was drawn to those things that we did not understand yet. The things that science couldn’t explain. I had no idea that eventually this was where I’d go for my story ideas.

But I didn’t write those stories at first. I didn’t write anything, really, at all. I know you’re probably thinking, Well, if it’s something you loved to do, how could you possibly forget about it for so long? Turns out that not doing something is the easiest thing in the world. You don’t write one day, and then suddenly you haven’t written for a week, and then you’re getting ready for college and it’s been a month, and then you’re working your butt off at something else, and suddenly you haven’t written for a year. Then two.

Then it becomes something you used to do.

Until you remember. In my case, I was home with my two young kids. My youngest had just started sleeping through the night, and I was relatively accustomed to not sleeping. And I realized that this was an opportunity to take my writing seriously. So I seized it.

I’d like to say I had an idea, I wrote it, The End, but that would be a lie. I had to write Fracture three times before I got it right. Each time I wrote it, I learned something very essential. But I don’t want to discount the first versions at all. Without the first, I couldn’t have written the second. Without the second, I couldn’t have written the third.

The process of writing Fracture goes like this: I have this idea. I’ve had this idea. I mean, I have questions. The questions fuel the idea behind the story. I write every night. I write furiously. I cannot stop. WriteWriteWrite. It’s kind of fun. I never know what’s going to happen next. (This may be foreshadowing of a PROBLEM TO COME)

Eventually, I finish.

Turns out I have a premise and an inciting incident but not an actual plot. Let me repeat that: I have reached the end and my book does not have a working plot. Probably this was expected (see: foreshadowing of a problem to come), but it is a horrifying realization.

Side note: If you are writing a book, you probably want it to have a plot.

Also, this is not a realization that I happened upon on my own. Nope, this is a realization that I came upon after I sent Fracture out into cyber-space and people began responding. Oops.

But at this stage, I also meet the person who will change me as a writer. She becomes my agent. She tells me the book isn’t ready yet. She also tells me she thinks I might get it there. I resolve to get it there.

I stare at the ceiling fan for an undisclosed number of nights (a totally legitimate phase of the writing process).

I rewrite the book.

Eventually, I finish.

At this point, I discover that in my single-minded search for a plot, I may have possibly (okay, definitely) lost the heart of the story.

Side note: If you are writing a book, and you want people to care at all about that book, you probably want it to have a heart. People don’t care about events. People care about people. That, I believe, is a universal truth.

So I spent a week or two trying to figure out how to inject heart back into the story. But here’s the thing: you can’t. It has to be in every sentence, every character interaction. It has to be there from the start and grow as the story progresses. You cannot inject heart into the story. You have to start with the heart and develop the story around it.

I had to start over. Again.

I spent a few days staring at the ceiling fan again, mumbled some less than kind words at it, and eventually opened a blank document. I had an idea . . . same characters, the same premise, but it had a new heart. A new central plot. A new point for the tension to pivot off of.

I stared at the blank document. And then I wrote. I tore through it, and each time I’d write a scene, I’d see the next one just waiting for me to get there. Everything came together this time.

When I sent it out, this time it was ready.

The End. (kind of)


2 thoughts on “Megan Miranda on Writing a Book

  1. When you said “inject heart into the story”, I had this picture of a scientist stabbing a pile of paper with a needle filled with minature hearts.


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