Episode 280

The Writing Process of a Best-Selling Author with Leigh Bardugo

December 21, 2021

What is the process of writing a book? In this episode, Leigh Bardugo, the New York Times bestselling author of Ninth House and the creator of the Shadow and Bone trilogy (now a Netflix original series) shares her approach to book writing. Leigh and Emily discuss different steps in the creative process, how to keep doing the work after receiving recognition, and what it’s like to adapt a book into a TV series for the world to enjoy.

Learn More about the Topics Discussed in this Episode
This Episode Brought to You By:
"Creating is a process of failing a little every day, dispersed with these little moments of feeling like you’re a creative genius."
- Leigh Bardugo

Discussed in this Episode

  • Leigh’s journey into becoming an author
  • How feelings of failure and discomfort can lead to great pieces of work
  • Leigh’s writing process approach
  • What the creative journey looks like and how to capture inspiration as an author
  • Tools and rituals Leigh uses in her writing process approach
  • Doing what you need to do in order to continue creating, even when it isn’t fun
  • How it feels to release a piece of writing into the world that becomes a film adaptation

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[00:00:37] Emily Thompson: Welcome to Being Boss. A podcast for creative business owners and entrepreneurs who want to take control of their work and live life on their own. I'm your host, Emily Thompson. And today I'm joined by Leigh Bardugo. Best-selling author of Ninth House and The Shadow and Bone Trilogy to talk about capturing inspiration, cultivating a creative process and letting your work grow beyond you.

[00:01:00] You can find all the tools, books, and links we referenced on the show notes at www.beingboss.club. And if you like this episode, be sure to subscribe to the show and share us with a friend.

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[00:02:03] Leigh Bardugo is a New York times bestselling author of ninth house and the creator of the Grisha verse, which spans the Shadow and Bone trilogy. Now a Netflix original series, The Six of Crows duology, The King of Scars duology, The Language of Thorns and The Lives of Saints with more to come. Her short stories can be found in multiple anthologies, including the best American science fiction and fantasy.

[00:02:28] She lives in Los Angeles. Now a little bit of a disclaimer for this episode, the sound quality at some parts of this interview is not the best because sometimes the internet connection just doesn't care that you're in the middle of a really juicy interview, but the content here is golden. So give us some grace and listen closely to gain some really good nuggets.

[00:02:49] Welcome Leigh to Being Boss. I'm so glad to have you here.

[00:02:53] Leigh Bardugo: Happy to be here.

[00:02:55] Emily Thompson: This is going to be such a great conversation. I have been sort of planning for and thinking about this episode for a couple of weeks, and I'm excited to sort of go in maybe a different direction with you. I also say I'm a total fan of your work.

[00:03:10] Leigh Bardugo: Thank you.

[00:03:10] Emily Thompson: Extremely excited just to be holding this space with you. And as both a reader of your work. But also as a boss, as a creative business person, I'm really excited to dive into how it is that you are able to be such a prolific and at the same time best-selling author who has worked, that is enjoyed by so many.

[00:03:33] I'm excited dive in with you on your creative process and specifically, obviously your writing process. But first I would love as much of an intro as you can get us, I would love for you to share with us your author journey. How did you get to where you are today?

[00:03:50] Leigh Bardugo: I mean, circuitous like what I would say.

[00:03:55] So when you talk to a lot of authors and young adults, a lot of them publish their books even before they graduated from college, or in their twenties. And I am not one of those stories. I wanted to be a writer from the time I was very young, but I had no idea how to write a book. So I would get ideas and I would, embark on them with a lot of enthusiasm and I would get a couple of chapters and then I would stop because I had no idea where to go.

[00:04:24] I didn't know what my process was. I didn't know how a book was built. And I had, I think culture does a real number on us in terms of understanding what it is to be a creative person or engage with, a big creative work, as opposed to something that can be broken up into teeny tiny pieces. Although I guess that is really what the approach of writing by outline is.

[00:04:49] I just didn't know what I was doing. And so I had a lot of jobs. I had a rent to pay and loans to pay off, and I reached a point in my thirties where I thought, maybe I'm just not meant to do this. I maybe I know there are a lot of people who want to be writers who want to work in creative fields. Maybe I'm somebody who's going to have had a dream and that's all it will be.

[00:05:12] And then, I had a talk with a friend of mine while on the phone with her having a cry. I remember I was making the buttons. You know, you should, you know you wanna be a writer. I was working as a makeup and special effects artists at the time. She said, you know, I know you wanna be a writer. Why are you wasting your time doing other things?

[00:05:32] Why don't you apply to the MFA? And I, I thought I don't actually want to go to school. I want to write a book on. The only reason I would go into graduate school is to learn to write a book. So what if I, what if I make a promise to myself that I'm going to write a book before my next birthday, which would have been, I guess in my 35th or 36th birthday, I can't remember anymore.

[00:05:55] And I got off the phone and I outlined a book. First time I outlined to screenwriting format three-act structure. It was very rough. It had lots of, questions and blank spaces in it, but that's what I did. And six months later, I had a book.

[00:06:15] Emily Thompson: What do you think it was about that phone call about that one outside of probably, I would imagine dozens of conversations that you may have had around this, but what was it about that one that made you think it's time?

[00:06:28] Leigh Bardugo: I've asked myself that a lot and I think, I think I was the lowest of lows, you know, I was in a not good relationship. I think its fair to say that it was a very scary relationship. My self-esteem has just been beaten into nothing and, I was in a job that I wasn't very good at, I wasn't making money in fact of, but it wasn't very good at my job and it was exhausting and, and not particularly gratifying.[00:07:00]

[00:07:00] And, I think I had sort of hit this moment where I was like, okay, the tombstone is going to read, have potential. Like, I felt just very bleak about everything. I was in a deep, deep depression. And I think the thing that helped turn the key for me was I told myself I wasn't going to write a good book.

[00:07:20] I was going to write a bad book. It just have to be done. It didn't have to be original. It didn't have to be smart. It didn't have to be anything. Except we did a beginning, a middle and an end. And once I had written a shitty book, then I would know I could write a book and I could write a good book. And that freed me from

[00:07:36] so much of these sort of visions of what I was supposed to be writing and who I was supposed to be and what kind of story I was supposed to rewriting. And instead I got to just write with pleasure and abandoned, and then that voice in my head would speak up and say, this is garbage. Everything you're doing is crap.

[00:07:54] Instead of saying, no, it's not. It's great. It's brilliant. I'd say, yeah, it's terrible. The thing, no one's ever going to see this. And I sort of played a trick on myself. I think that was what allowed me to get through that kind of vital first draft. And at the end of that draft, I thought, you know what? This is actually bad.

[00:08:09] There's some stuff in here I really like. And how about I go back and revise this and make this into something better. And that was shadow and bone.

[00:08:17] Emily Thompson: Nice.

[00:08:19] I feel like almost have to sit with that one for just like half a second. Because one of the things that I know holds so many creatives back is exactly what you like mind trick your way around.

[00:08:30] Right? This idea of someone's going to judge me, what are they going to think? Is anyone going to buy it? Whatever it may be. It keeps them from actually just enjoying the process of creating. Which really is why most of us are here. So I love hearing that you, that, I guess this was the moment when you knew that that was what you had to do to make it happen.

[00:08:58] And that it actually resulted in being something that everyone wanted to read and loved.

[00:09:04] Leigh Bardugo: I mean, I wouldn't say everyone, and I think that's actually an important thing to say, which is that part of the deal you can make with yourself as an artist is no everyone isn't going to like this. Some people are going to hate it.

[00:09:16] Some people are going to give you terrible reviews and yell at you. And that is okay. How does he be part of being an artist or creating anything that goes out into the world, ripple judgment. But I think that we grow up with very weird ideas about what it is to be creative. When we go to see a movie or read a book about an artist or watch a television show where there's an artist or a musician or a writer.

[00:09:45] We see it as an tiny fraction of what their process is like. Right. We see them have some brilliant moment of inspiration and those were breakup. And then they sit down at the typewriter or they approach the canvas and Hilary of activity. We have this montage of creation. And then at the end, there's a stack of pages.

[00:10:03] Somebody types the end, or they put the finishing flourish on the, on the painting and they lie down exhausted, then they're done. And so we have no sense of what it is to grapple with. The discomfort of something not being what you want it to be everyday. We have no idea what the slog of that is. And.

[00:10:22] Creating really the process of failing a little everyday and then interspersed with these brief moments of feeling like you're a genius. And then at the end of that, when you have is a messy, rough draft, and that then needs to go through the process of revision, which we never see in any kind of creative endeavor, because it would be so fucking boring, but we are less than with a real misconception about what it means to make art and to make art in a commercial.

[00:10:50] Right. So when we embark on this journey and when we begin to dig in and really try to produce a piece of work, we are met with the experience that does not line up with that. And it is very easy to think to yourself, well, my God, I'm doing this wrong. I'm on the wrong path. I'm not having this, these epic moments of inspiration.

[00:11:09] This is difficult and prickly and challenging. And one of the things I think is so important for creative people to know is when you run into those days, when you feel like you're failing, what you're actually getting is not a sign saying stop. You're getting a sign saying it's like keep going. Because the reason it feels that way is because you are attempting to do something bigger and better and more interesting, more challenging than you've ever done before.

[00:11:35] So of course, it's going to feel uncomfortable.

[00:11:39] Emily Thompson: Amen all over that. All over. Okay. So you have done the mind tricks that you used to do, right? To get yourself into this first draft. Did you write it by that next birthday?

[00:11:53] Leigh Bardugo: I think I was a few months late, but I did get there. I think I, I don't think I made my 35th birthday, but I think it was a few months after that I was done with that first draft.

[00:12:03] Emily Thompson: Wonderful. And then, and then what happens? So you get this first draft of this book that you have sworn to yourself that you will complete.

[00:12:10] And you're compelled to do something with it. What does that look like?

[00:12:14] Leigh Bardugo: Well, the first step of that was showing it to, first I was revising it, right. So I have, I write what is called the zero draft or what I call a zero draft, which is the draft

[00:12:24] no one will ever see. And it's barely a draft. It's more like a very elaborate outline with a lot of missing pieces. But I go in and I fill out what I know. So, that then becomes workable first draft. And then that gets revised into draft that I feel comfortable showing to someone. And I sent it to two of my friends.

[00:12:45] Neither are novelists, but one had been through the, through an MFA program and who was working, as a journalist and screen writer. The other, is now an academic and a screenwriter. And it's Los Angeles. Everybody's a screenwriter. And. And I trusted both of them, which I think is incredibly vital.

[00:13:05] You need people who, who you trust to give you honest and useful feedback. But who also, aren't going to bring their ego to process. And so I sent it to my friends, Michelle and Josh, and while they were reading the manuscript, I started researching agents and. And trying to figure out, who, who I could approach and how you even do that.

[00:13:29] How do you write a pitch letter and a little bio and that all that's going to work? I took a seminar on, writing query letters, first pages and I also discovered that absolutely no one want what I had written. I had no sense of what the market was. I thought fantasy was fantasy and young adult was young adult.

[00:13:57] And what I learned very quickly was that everybody was looking for paranormal fantasy or werewolves, vampires, steam punk. Saphire the one thing they didn't want was, what I write, which is, or what I wrote at the time, which was epic fantasy or secondary world fantasy. And I'm so glad I didn't know that because I might not have

[00:14:14] attempted it. And, and because of that, it limited the number of agents who I could approach. And I saw a post from, Joanna Volpe on one of her on a blog. And it said it was all about how much she loved Lord of the rings and then how she was looking for the secondary fantasy that was really gonna make her heart sing.

[00:14:37] And I thought, why not? I'll give it a try. And I, she was one of the agents I queried, I poured money and lucky for me, she was one of the ones that, to see more. So, I sent her a full manuscript and I remember I was standing in line to, I had rented a Halloween costume that year and I was [00:15:00] standing in line to return it.

[00:15:02] I got a call from her saying that she wanted to represent that. I was crying when I got up to the register and he was like,

[00:15:16] it was, it was magic. It turned out to be exactly the right person. And, and she is still my agent to this age and over 10 years later.

[00:15:26] Emily Thompson: That's amazing.

[00:15:27] Okay. So whenever you did the outline for this first book. Did you know, it would be an epic, like, did you know it would be multiple books or did it sort of flow into that?

[00:15:39] What did it look like to take the first outline and expand it into the universe that it now is?

[00:15:47] Leigh Bardugo: I first wrote, shadow and bone. I had my only goal is to finish that book. Okay. I wasn't thinking, oh, it's going to be a trilogy or it's going to be this. All I cared about was finishing book. Cause I'd never been shooting that before.

[00:16:02] About halfway through that process. Somewhere after that zero draft, I thought who's editing is not enough. It's not this isn't actually the end of the story. And so I started taking notes for what could be a second and third book in the trilogy, but I didn't know if I would sell that first one. So it was a, if I get the chance, if this goes anywhere type of situation.

[00:16:30] So no, I didn't. I remember reading an interview with Brandon Sanderson or something. And he's basically had all 36 books of the cause mere mapped out since he was 17. And I'm just not that person. My brain does not, still to this day does not think of the story in that way. And if you read the books in the Grishaverse, they haven't in very constrained amounts of time.

[00:16:52] They're not, you know, let us spend, you know, 20 years or 30 years with these characters, let's spend a few months or let's spend a couple of years and then the story develops from there. So, no, I was not thinking of the grand plan for the Grishaverse at the time. There was no Grisha. So it was just one book and one girl's story Elena's story.

[00:17:17] And that was the thing that I was sort of holding on to.

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[00:18:57] Emily Thompson: That is such a super fascinating process to me. I definitely assumed you were planning the whole Grishaverse as you were writing. So high five for pulling some really good, really good, I guess, plot weaving

[00:19:14] throughout these books. I appreciate you sharing all of that with us. I think, I think it's so fascinating to hear stories where creative, such as yourself.

[00:19:25] Like we all began in this, either one, a very windy path where you just land, who, wherever it is that you're supposed to land, or we have these moments of reckoning where we have walked down a path where we, you know, finally realized that this really, really, really, really isn't it. And we course correct usually quite dramatically.

[00:19:48] And that you were able to do that. And by doing so, opened yourself up to creating so many things along the way, so I appreciate you sharing that, for sure. And I want to dive into though creative process, because you've shared a little bit of like what it looked like to create these words from a very like bird's eye view, but I would love the opportunity to dive in with you on what exactly it looks like for you to create in the way that you create.

[00:20:23] So I think the most natural place to start is probably inspiration. Like where it is that you gather inspiration. So where do you gather it and how do you capture inspiration to use later?

[00:20:40] Leigh Bardugo: Okay. So there's sort of two different kinds of ideas. There are ideas that arrive like lightning bolts, and there are ideas

[00:20:51] that need to, I'm going to mix up all my metaphors now, but need to sort of sit in the Crock-Pot for awhile. So we'll call them like the slow storm brewing. So in terms of inspiration that can really come from anywhere. It can come from podcasts. I listened to a lot of podcasts. I love listening to historical podcasts, podcasts about language, podcasts about food.

[00:21:15] You know, I will pick up little ideas from there and I always just record them on my phone when I'm having the idea or something strikes me. And then periodically I will go into my audio files and I will transcribe those ideas. And yeah, many of them are direct, but some of them, and some of them are just the bare stub of an idea.

[00:21:36] And others are real, you know, concepts that can be turned into books or story or short story. So I gather all of those and I have a lot of faith in the subconscious to, transform ideas and connect ideas that we don't, that we can't kind of massage or sculpt or, prune into something, just by going at them head on.

[00:22:03] So I'm going to give you an example. So for instance, I recently sold a graphic novel. The idea for that came because we were approached by a studio that had the rights to a particular story. And I thought, boy, you don't want to write that. But Ooh, I just got this lightning bolts idea, that came out of nowhere. And that was really just brought on by this conversation and thinking about property

[00:22:26] I'd never thought of before. That was a sort of instant concept, sort of an instant story that I could see playing out beginning, middle and end in my head. Even though that was a sort of full born idea. Then I had to sit down and what I always do no matter where the idea comes from and then, okay, I'm going to backtrack for a second, second type of idea.

[00:22:52] I recently pitched a new, novel, not novel has probably three different ideas that I had been playing with. And I'm dabbling in for years, but that I didn't know I did, but I couldn't see the story attached to them. And then they, instead of being one of those ideas that then became developed, it really was then automation of those ideas that came together.

[00:23:14] I thought, oh, of course, this is the place that I was headed now with both of these ideas, even though one was slow burn and the other was instant fire, I then sit down, and I try to express that idea in a single sentence or two, and people who are involved in screenwriting or writing will recognize this ideas, the log line, this is your elevator pitch.

[00:23:39] My theory is that if you can't tell that story in a couple of sentences, that's your first proof of concept. If you can't, then you don't actually know what you're dealing with and it doesn't matter how much you bashing your head against the wall. He needs to sit for a little bit longer.

[00:23:55] Emily Thompson: Ooh. That's.

[00:23:57] That's right in line I find with, with how a lot of creatives work. But it's funny to me, it's, it's interesting, not funny. It's interesting to me that you use, sort of both of these sort of long-term, you know, Crock-Pot ideas. And then you're also getting these short, short burst, inspirational moments, because I often find that creatives will work in one way or the other.

[00:24:22] And so I love that you're bringing them both together. And allowing them to, to play. And I'm, I'm even wondering, as I'm saying this out loud, is this capturing of inspiration, something that you were doing before you started writing? Or is it something that you either developed naturally or you knew you had to develop once you really got into your writing practice?

[00:24:50] Leigh Bardugo: It's something I've been doing since I was a kid. And I think that anybody who's creative recognizes this. We walk around with little journals. We, you know, talking to our phones, whatever the tech is of the time, you know, we are, I think if we're storytellers or creative in any way, this is something that we know can be fleeting.

[00:25:08] And my experience has been, if you don't track it, It will go in the matter of seconds and then I cannot bloody remember what I was thinking was so brilliant. And I'll also record things, thinking I've had a brilliant idea and then I will come back to and be like, boy, is that not great? Which is fine.

[00:25:26] It doesn't have to be great if all the ideas were great, you'd probably be overwhelmed with how many things we wanted to do or write. I guess there's two things I want to address. One is I can actually give concrete examples. It's hard to talk about future projects because I'm not allowed to talk about them yet, but I can look back on past projects and I can point directly to the way this is kind of inspiration works.

[00:25:51] One is, I was listening to a podcast called Stuff You Missed in History, and they were talking about, I can't remember the name of this guy, but he was a historical figure who essentially had a condition where he could not get full. He would eat and eat and eat and eat and he could not get full. And it was a fairly grotesque and disturbing story.

[00:26:10] And because he, he was just an incredibly tragic character who was sometimes the punchline of jokes and so forth, but he, he had this condition. And, that had been passed into folklore. And I thought that is really painful and poignant. And what I ended up writing was a story within a story in a book of dark fairy tales.

[00:26:33] I did a couple language of thorns. And it's one of the stories that this girl tells in sort of Shara's odd fashion to this beast, but, has told her he, he only wants to hear true stories and, and she essentially tells this tale of this boy who has this emptiness inside him that he can't fill. And it becomes a metaphor for depression as opposed to, you know, what the original story is about.

[00:27:02] So that is an example of, a very specific moment of inspiration. That's a different way that that operates is when I got the idea for six of crows, I can point to the moment where all of these ideas came together. I was driving down the street and I saw a billboard for the movie monuments men with George Clooney and Matt Damon.

[00:27:23] And I thought, boy, I had no interest in seeing that, but I really want to rewatch. Ocean's 11, which I think is a near perfect film. And I thought, oh my God, I want to recognize. What was interesting about this was okay. That's a bare bones idea, but then I had all of these characters, this character and in dirty hands.

[00:27:45] So I thought about writing a short story for, these characters, this, Drew's Palla, who's a witch hunter on the Grisha that he would then have to team up with. So I thought, oh, well, I'll write a short story for them at some point, but no, no, no. I'm going to bring all of these characters who had been cooking

[00:28:04] in the back of my head together, and I'm gonna force them to go on this mission together and try to pull off this impossible heights. So that, you know, inspiration is not something that he is easily put a finger on, but those are two examples of kind of the way that can work. And the only thing I would say to writers or creative people out there is that there's danger in the romance of the big idea.

[00:28:29] Do you know what I'm talking about there?

[00:28:32] Emily Thompson: Absolutely. Some

[00:28:32] big magic. Big magic moments.

[00:28:37] Leigh Bardugo: You have this idea. Fantastic. So what the process of writing a book is not one of falling in love. It's one of staying in love. It is you fall in love with the original idea, but then that idea is not going to be enough to sustain you. We're going to need daily inspiration to keep the momentum about the story going and the best stories ask you questions, and they continue to ask you questions.

[00:29:06] And those questions should be exciting for you to answer. And there will be a lot of problem-solving that goes into the creation of a novel. So the idea that somehow this one idea is going to be this idea that is so sexy and brilliant, incredible that it's going to sustain it for the novel, I think is a huge mess.

[00:29:26] Emily Thompson: Yeah, I find the same to be true too, for, you know, if your work of creation is your business, all of those things that you just said apply a hundred percent, right? It's not just this big idea. There is this daily need and not even big idea, but that moment of like, of romance with whatever it is that you're doing, it's not just one.

[00:29:47] It has to be a little bit every day for you to get there. I love all of that. I have sort of two follow up questions around inspiration, one quick and easy I think what's your favorite podcast right now?

[00:30:03] Leigh Bardugo: Oh my God. Okay. I love criminal, which is it's true crime, but it's very, it's not like, you know, like serial killers on what all is.

[00:30:15] It's a really interesting take on, different stories and that's hosted by, A woman named Phoebe judge. Who's just amazing. I also love gastro pod, which is a podcast about nice. So not as a favorite of mine as well.

[00:30:36] Emily Thompson: Perfect.

[00:30:37] Perfect. Okay. And then my next one is really back to inspiration. And I'm wondering if you have a process for revisiting your inspiration.

[00:30:45] Are you sitting down every couple of weeks and going back through all of your voice notes, are you just sitting down whenever it's time to create something? What does it look like to actually revisit what it is that you've captured?

[00:30:57] Leigh Bardugo: If I'm. So I candidly say that I don't have a lot of cause to go back to, ideas and inspiration, unless I am approaching a short story or a short story opportunity.

[00:31:12] Or if I'm really stuck, then I will go back into my voice notes. I also, when I'm working on a project, A book, I will end up getting ideas for how to solve problems or particular scenes or bits of dialogue. Those I absolutely will go back into and access. I'm currently working on the sequel of ninth house, which is very research heavy.

[00:31:33] And so I of course went back into not only my research notes, but ideas I've had over the past year while I was working on my other Grishaverse book, a rule of wolves when I was working with that, as opposed to working on the sequel, I would still get ideas or, be, find stuff, you know, through websites, all my Google alerts, weird archeology things, a cult stuff.

[00:31:58] And so I'll go in and dig into those to see if there's anything that I really want to bring into the book.

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[00:32:28] you're here to be. Sign up and get three months free once you run your first payroll, when you go to gusto.com/beingboss. That's gusto.com/beingboss.

[00:32:42] Then let's move beyond inspiration and into the actual act of writing. I would love to hear from you what that process for you looks like. Do you have any routines or rituals that you use to, you know, sort of sit down and get yourself in the head space. And for those of us who are a little [00:33:00] deeper into the nerdy dumb, what tools are you actually do using to write and put together your works?

[00:33:08] Leigh Bardugo: Okay. So, I don't have a lot of rituals. I try to keep myself as flexible as possible because you never know. When you're eating, when you, when you're writing to deadline, you are not really allowed to kind of be precious about the process. But when I embark on any new projects, I have to have a new notebook that is dedicated to that project.

[00:33:31] Always need to have headphones so that I can be listening to music. My go-to is Ludovico Einaudi, he's my favorite composer. And, I usually find I have a track or two of his that, that become associated for me with, With a given book. So for instance, there's a piece called walk.

[00:33:59] That what I listened to just again and again, I'll move. When I was writing the ninth house, there's a piece called a time-lapse. That was my six of crows piece. So those are, so I need music and I need my laptop and I need my book. And then I use both Scrivener and Microsoft word. So when I initially sit down with an idea, I will write in, in word and a word document, and I will come up with what is commonly known as a beat sheet.

[00:34:31] And I, and that is basically for me, it's 12 beats. Some people write to 15, but it's 12 moments in the story and that's a single page. Only when I'm done with that, will I start to move over to Scrivener. And I find Scrivener indispensable, particularly because my books have gotten a little weirder and more complex as I written.

[00:34:52] So shadow and bone, the trilogy is written in first person POV it's quite linear. Six of crows has five main POV's and the first book and six main POV's and the second book and has heists and flashbacks and all kinds of things. So I really don't think I could have written that without Scrivener or I don't know what I probably would have had some kind of a red string and index cards, but that's what I use.

[00:35:20] I, I use voting, to, to assess in the outline mode of Scrivener. And then that is sort of where I remain until it's really time to start, revising. And then I will move everything over into a word document to read through. And then once it goes to my editor and she comes back with notes, or he comes back with notes, I will then, use a kind of chapter.

[00:35:53] Which is essentially one word description of every chapter I will face through what needs to happen, in every chapter, in order for me to accomplish what I want to accomplish. And then I will usually put the book back into Scrivener, which sounds onerous, but also means you really have a grasp on

[00:36:14] where everything is. Oh, also say I don't use chapter titles, chapter numbers until really late in the process for me, chapters are short descriptions of scenes. So there's a line in that outline that tells me where I am, because I want to be able to toggle between scenes as easily as possible and keep track of where I am.

[00:36:35] Again, as my books have become more complex. And I'm dealing with multiple timelines and multiple points of view. I need it to be as readily accessible to my brain as possible. So that, that is how I work, dumped into a word document before it goes to my editor again.[00:37:00]

[00:37:01] Emily Thompson: No. That's amazing though. I mean, it just, it goes to show that sort of, you know, everyone has their own process and not everything is super linear and tied up. And like all of these things, you, you use the tools that work for you and the phases of the projects where you are. And, you know, you, you do the work, right?

[00:37:18] You do the work that you need to produce the thing and the way that you need to produce it. And I appreciate you sharing that with us because I think it, I think it illustrates that point really beautifully that you use what you have access to. And you do it in the way that you just need to do it.

[00:37:35] Leigh Bardugo: Yeah.

[00:37:35] Emily Thompson: I love it.

[00:37:38] Leigh Bardugo: I think every book and every project requires something a little bit different and it can be easy to let your process right. So that you think this is the way I do things. It's the way I've always done things. It's very comforting, right? Taking on a novel or a book of short stories or big project is daunting.

[00:37:54] And so what you're really trying to do is make it manageable for yourself so that you don't get overwhelmed. And I find this process helps me to not get overwhelmed. My process with almost every reach of her spot has been to just charge you that first draft and don't look back. I don't reread. I get this messy monster onto the page, and then I go back and let myself engage the critical brain as opposed to the drafting brain and start to think about

[00:38:21] more analytically about what the story is going to be. But with Ninth House, there's so much more and it is, and are so many mysteries. They are fundamentally murder-mystery novels. And because of that, I need to reread, I don't have the same process for those folks. I will go back and I will reread the first act, the second act and with these books, because I've been, I had a very different life now than I had when I started writing.

[00:38:48] Even then in my first, probably five books where my focus was got to be entirely my novels and then promotion for whatever was happening. Now I have production meetings and zoom calls constantly. It is rare that I have a day that is free from that or where I'm not, there aren't a considerable number of emails for me to reply to.

[00:39:08] So finding flow has been a lot more difficult and because I'm working with the new editor on the sequel, I turned in the first hundred pages. Then I turned in the second hundred pages. And my hope is that, you know, by the end of the next few months, I'm going to have another 200 pages to turn into her that will bring us to the end of the book.

[00:39:25] But that is a very different process than any of their novel that I've written.

[00:39:30] Emily Thompson: How are you feeling about this adjusted process? Right. You just sort of mentioned the fact that you don't have the time to dedicate to writing because your obligations and responsibilities have grown so much as, as your work has become, you know, more sort of popular and mainstream and grown legs and gone to do other things.

[00:39:50] How are you, how are you reckoning with this shifting of timeframe and, and. I what the question I want to ask is, how do you feel about, or do you still feel like you are doing work that you enjoy?

[00:40:09] Leigh Bardugo: Oh, man, that is a mixed bag. I mean,

[00:40:14] I don't like it. I didn't, I am not, I don't have the kind of brain that multitasks. Well, I like my, my greatest joy is to be deep into a book. And to find flow with it and, and to sort of leave the sense of struggle behind and really be engaged in with it. And that is incredibly hard to do. When you are constantly being asked to engage different parts of your brain, one of the pieces of advice I give to new writers is always get offline and that's not just because social media is a distraction or it's bad for your mental health.

[00:40:45] It's because social media almost consistently asks you to engage a critical part of your brain, the editorial brain, as opposed to the free open draft drafting brain, excuse me, the free open drafting brain. And it is very hard to be creative when those critical. And those critical parts of your brain are being engaged.

[00:41:10] So I don't love it. I don't like it. I find it tiresome. I hate zoom calls. I hate meetings. One of the great joys of my life is having a career where I don't have to talk to people all the time, because I don't really like people. I am an introvert bordering on a misanthrope and I love to be in isolation.

[00:41:28] I love to just be with my work, that is sort of having for me. I got very lucky because a lot of the people who were involved in the adaptation of my work, Both with ninth house and with shadow and bone are people I genuinely like. And so a lot of those people are people I would, that I enjoy talking with who I can find inspiration and who also uncomfortable handing the process off to a certain points.

[00:41:59] And so now with shadow and bone, you know, we finished passing for the second season. We've gone through some of the basic stuff with, costumes, production, locations, you know, the nitty gritty of props and weapons. And so while I'll keep one eye on that, I am definitely stepping back, stepping back from it because it really doesn't belong to me anymore.

[00:42:20] It belongs to the writers, the crew and the cast, the ninth house, we're in a different stage of development. And I will say that, for me working on that has actually been a big inspiration for the second book, because it's helped me to stay engaged with that world and excited about that world when there were so many distractions.

[00:42:39] Emily Thompson: Yeah, I feel like you're, well, one, thank you for that openness, because I, as you were explaining that process and I, I, I know creatives, right? We like to be in our holes. We like to be creating our work. And that, that's one of the things that comes with, you know, I don't want to say popularity cause that's not what I mean, but just whenever what you do gain such legs that it is able to do so much responsibilities and our involvement in those things changes. And I know a lot of creatives really struggle with, with that sort of next step of your work, doing what you want it to do. So I appreciate you sharing that and I it's a process, right? It's a process of, of

[00:43:28] stepping in and stepping back and, you know, giving, but also, doing what you need to sort of receive what you need to, to continue creating. So it sounds like, it sounds like, you know, what the steps are to, to get you in that space. But also I feel you.

[00:43:46] Leigh Bardugo: Our job at the beginning of our careers, when we are, when we are not, when we are aspiring, let's call it that our culture does not care about aspiring artists.

[00:43:57] It doesn't care what your aspirations are or what your [00:44:00] interests are. And we see that in a way that we talk about artists, right? When you meet somebody at a party and they say, oh, I'm a writer. You don't say, oh, what kind of stories do you like? What did you grow up reading? What do you say, oh, have you published anything that I would have read?

[00:44:16] When you meet an actor? You don't say, oh, what's your dream role. You say, oh, have you ever been anything? Okay. We reward success. We don't have an interest in aspiring artists, which is a shame because that's when artists need our support the most. But your job at that beginning stage of your career is to nurture your art and to nurture the creativity that you have and the inspiration that you have and protect it and to make art when nobody gives a damn about you.

[00:44:46] And nobody gives a damn about your work and you need to nurture that because that same muscle is what is going to allow you to continue working when shit gets really loud. And you are once again, going to be asked to shut out other voices and other critique and continue to create. So there's a through line there between the beginning of art and then the commercialization of art.

[00:45:08] Emily Thompson: Right. There is this, you have to learn that skill in the beginning because it's something like it's a practice, right? We talk about our creative practice or creative process. The process is if we have to practice our process right. And make it work for ourselves. That's beautiful. I appreciate you. I appreciate you sharing that insight.

[00:45:30] Then I think the next sort of natural question is what does it feel like for you to release work into the world, especially knowing now what sort of responsibilities can come with creating additional work? A lot of times creatives in our crowd, and I think maybe even in general, you create something and there's this one fear of letting it into the world or.

[00:45:54] Two, this, this needing to like, hold onto it once it's supposed to have gone beyond you. I'm wondering what your process for this is. Like, especially handing your work off to whole production teams to more or less go do with it, what they will. What is that like for you and what is your process for letting things go?

[00:46:16] If you need one?

[00:46:18] Leigh Bardugo: I mean, all I can offer is trust your partners. Right. Like any active adaptation, you are at the very top, right? Unless you are a Stephen King or a JK Rowling, you're not going to get a lot of insolence on adaptation or in these partnerships. And so you choose your partners with, with as much care as you can, and then you roll the dice.

[00:46:43] And I quite frankly got lucky. I got a good vibe of Eric Heisserer, or when I met him, he's the producer for shadow and bone. And. I felt like I could trust him. And I had to go with my gut and as it turned out, my gut was basically right. I'm not going to say we haven't bumped heads. Of course we have. And we've had some very heated conversations, but that is the nature of adaptation.

[00:47:07] And what you want is somebody who respects you enough to have that conversation, as opposed to just saying, I'm shutting the door, I'm locking you out of this, which can absolutely happen. And I've seen it happen with some of my friends. And it is it's as if you have built a house and furnished it and filled it with everything you love, and then somebody locks the door and leaves you standing on the porch and your hands are out of the glass.

[00:47:29] Right? So that's, the risk is incredibly high and there are some writers who simply won't option their work, because they're not interested in that. And I, I respect that for me, the risk is worth it because your work then comes to the attention of so many people who never would have heard of it. And the fact is that the reach of television and film is just so much wider than, than anything that, that usually goes along with the publicity for books or the marketing of books.

[00:47:57] So, you know, when it came to ninth house, I trusted my gut as well. And so far that has been very comfortable and has been born out in, in our interactions, but you just don't know what you're getting into you. So choose your partners wisely and then you trust them. And you hope that they will, that you will be friends at the end of the process and still respect each other at the end of the process, but it is harrowing.

[00:48:24] And I shed many tears to, in, in moments of frustration and, feeling unheard or frustrated in, in, in this process. And it would be silly to pretend that you can get through this without that. You just can't. It's too close. And with the Grishaverse, you know, this is the bulk of my life, right? This is a huge amount of my life's work has been within this particular universe.

[00:48:50] So it has been, frightening to me to put that into somebody else's hands.

[00:48:57] Emily Thompson: Yeah.

[00:48:58] That's powerful stuff. And again, it's something that I know is so many creatives deal with, but I love that. I love what you're saying about just, I mean, trusting the process, right. We kind of preach that around here. Anyway.

[00:49:09] Also you just have to trust the process along the way.

[00:49:13] Leigh Bardugo: Trust your partners. If you don't trust them, don't do it. Say no, walk away from it. And it's terrifying to walk away from the pros. We got a ton of offers and interest in it, and I don't say that to butter my own party. But we had a property that was easy to pitch and easy to adapt.

[00:49:31] Unlike Shadow and Bone, right? Shadow goes a little more complicated. It doesn't have an elevator pitch. Six of Crows is easy, right? It's high street magic. It's oceans 11 meets game of Thrones, easy peasy. And so we had a lot of meetings with a lot of people and I would come out of these meetings, and I would say to my producing partner pulley, I would say.

[00:49:50] This doesn't feel right. I said, if it doesn't feel right, we're not doing it. This is too weak. We believe in this story too much to just hand it over to somebody. And we waited. And I remember saying to him, I'm scared that the window is going to close. You know, you say no enough times, maybe nobody else is going to ask you to dance.

[00:50:08] Well, I was wrong. We were waiting for the right partner. But that is a terrifying, terrifying process. And either you believe in the story and believe in finding that person and believe in finding someone who you're willing to be able to compromise with because adaptation and protecting your work is not about protecting every part of it.

[00:50:29] It's about deciding where adaptation can actually make the work better or more interesting or something different and where it has to stay the same to retain the soul and heart of. So, you know, I, I, when you, when you have a show, that's going to be on TV and you, you say everything's is sunshine and roses, of course it's not sunshine and roses, it's difficult.

[00:50:58] And it makes you mad too, because you know this stuff better than anybody else. To decide personally as well. You know, when you give away the rights to something, how much, how much of this can you withstand, how much of it can you bear and, and how much do you want to simply walk away and say, do what you're going to do.

[00:51:16] Emily Thompson: Right. Paired with paired, with understanding the benefit of, of

[00:51:21] doing the hardwork.

[00:51:23] Leigh Bardugo: Yes.

[00:51:24] Emily Thompson: Love it.

[00:51:25] Oh, I love it. Leigh, this has been such a treat to chat with you. I would love for you to share with our audience where it is they can find more about you and your work.

[00:51:37] Leigh Bardugo: Oh, well, you can just go to my website leighbardugo.com and, there's plenty of information about all of my books and where to find me on social media.

[00:51:49] I had been on social media hiatus for the last few months and I didn't plan to stay that way for awhile. Yeah.

[00:51:56] Emily Thompson: Nice, nice move. And then I have one final question for you. This is always the fun surprise.

[00:52:01] Leigh Bardugo: Go, boy.

[00:52:01] Emily Thompson: I would love to know from you what right now is making you feel most boss?

[00:52:07] Leigh Bardugo: My new project. I have a little, a little book that I'm working on that I just turned in a proposal and that I've been doing research on.

[00:52:16] And it is always gratifying when you've been writing in series to think, oh, I have something completely new and exciting that I want to do. And those new ideas, you know, the graphic novel, there's a screenplay that I'm working on. But I think particularly this novel has made me feel really excited again about what I'm doing and reminded me why I, why I went into this for the first place.

[00:52:40] So that makes me feel.

[00:52:42] Emily Thompson: Nice. There's nothing like putting a creative in their place and letting them create.

[00:52:49] Leigh Bardugo: Yeah. And it's funny cause I'm like, oh, the romance of the big idea, but the truth is you do fall in love. You do fall in love with an idea and it is, especially in those early stages, it really is and it is just the best feeling.

[00:53:03] So hold on to that.

[00:53:07] Yeah, perfect.

[00:53:09] Emily Thompson: Oh, I love it. Thank you so much, Leigh, for coming to hang out with me. This has been an absolute treat.

[00:53:14] Leigh Bardugo: Oh my pleasure. Thank you for the great questions and good luck to everybody out there. All of your listeners who are working in and trying to make art in a world that often doesn't care about art.

[00:53:25] I, I wish you all the best.

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[00:54:10] when you go to gusto.com/beingboss. That's gusto.com/beingboss.

[00:54:16] Leigh Bardugo: Now until next time, do the work, be boss .