A Writer’s Interview: Part Two

Yesterday I answered eleven questions in response to my friends blog post, where they did the same. Today, I’m answering another eleven questions, my friend will be doing the same but I don’t have a link just yet.

I’m supposed to be working on fiction right now, writing more of the sequel to my finished book. However, I admit I’m struggling a bit at the moment. Confession time, at the weekend I actually made myself a star chart. I know it’s juvenile but I figured a bit of positive reinforcement never hurt anyone. I don’t think I’m going to get a star for my work time today.

That being said I’m writing this blog post, rather than doing something unproductive like those facebook games. I figured if I wasn’t going to write fiction, then this is the next best thing. It’s at least forcing me to focus on something to do with the written word.

Anyway, this is part two of the interview, there will be a third and final part posted tomorrow or after that.

1) How do you structure your writing time and what medium do you use?
This question was originally five questions, which I combined as they were all aspects of the same thing. At the moment my writing schedule isn’t what it used to be, nor what I would like it to be. I haven’t managed to get properly back in the saddle after being so ill for a couple of months.

Therefore I’m going to answer this based on what the schedule is when I’m doing it properly. The writing time is structured for five days a week, Monday-Friday, just like a regular job. I go to the gym/swimming pool three mornings a week, therefore I start a bit later on those days. Otherwise the scheduled hours are 10am-1pm, 2pm-5pm for five days every week.

When I had my system working before, if I had to miss a working day then I swapped it to the weekend. Also, when working on a first draft I had a word count goal for each day, if I didn’t make the goal then I needed to make up the additional words on another day. This led me to working practically every weekend and as ridiculous as it sounds I was burning out. I think people need time off, to do other things, no matter what job they hold. Therefore I won’t do this unless it’s a real emergency when I start up again. I will do whatever I can during my scheduled hours and that will have to be enough.

Perhaps when I have worked consistently for a longer period of time, I will either manage more within the scheduled hours, or I will be able to increase them without it negatively affecting my health.

As for the medium I use, I write first drafts on the computer. However, I do all the analysis part of revision on paper. Once I have worked out what parts I need to cut, what parts I need to adjust and what new parts I need to create, I go back to the computer.

2) Where do your ideas come from?
I could, and probably should, lie here as I don’t know if I should admit the truth. However, honestly I get inspired by other stories. There will be one aspect, nearly always a minor aspect that triggers something, that just gets my attention. We’re talking vague character traits or generic plot points here, and I’ll want to apply it completely differently. I want to stress that because this is why I’m nervous about admitting where the ideas come from, I don’t want anyone to think that I plagiarize.

Recently I had a whole story inspired out of a character on a TV show, who is a single mother. It was that aspect of her character, how she juggled her family life, with her job, with her need for a life of her own, that really intrigued me. I changed her profession, I changed her location, I changed her background, I changed her future. All that was left when my story started, was that this character was a single mother juggling her roles.

Now I could have got that character trait from my own mother, or from a couple of different people I follow on twitter, or from the countless examples from other TV Shows, books, movies, the news etc. It’s something that could come from anywhere, but for whatever reason watching that specific example is what inspired the character I created. Are there other similarities? Perhaps in their strength but ultimately they are different people, or characters I should say, the character isn’t their inspiration.

When it comes to ideas I just need a starting point, a concept of some aspect of the story. Sometimes that is a character trait, sometimes it’s a plot point, sometimes it’s just an image that comes to mind of a particular place or time. Once I have my starting point I ask myself questions, all kinds of questions until it’s fleshed out. By the far most important question to ask is why, that’s the question I ask the most because if the why doesn’t make sense, then nothing else matters.

3) Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I much prefer to work with a complete scene by scene outline. By that I don’t mean incredibly detailed notes on the scene, just a bullet point per scene summarizing what is to happen within that scene. I find that if I don’t plot properly that the story falls apart quite early on as it doesn’t make sense.

That being said I have created more than one story by just starting typing and seeing what happens. I never write the whole story like that but I write enough that I learn what the story is about, I can then go back and properly outline the rest of it. Sometimes it’s tempting just to keep on typing but I know that would be a waste of my time.

4) How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
This is a hard question and quite open to interpretation. I’m really curious as to whether my friend will answer this one and what they will say. I suppose my answer is that I have learned over the years what process works for me, I’ve learned what my limits are and what I can and can’t do. Now, it’s an on going process and I know I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go.

I have learned that I need a proper outline, I have learned that if I don’t know the answer when planning, I still won’t know the answer after I have started writing and the whole thing is just going to go up in smoke. It’s so tempting to just think that I’ll answer that later, but it never works out if I do that.

I have learned that I can’t work on the sequel to a project until I have completely finished whatever came before. I thought if I had finished the first draft that would be enough, but it isn’t as in the back of my mind I’m aware that I could make important changes during revision. I’m not willing to work on something that I’ll then have to change, I have to ensure that the foundation is stable first.

What I have learned really depends on how far back I go, where I consider my starting point to evolve from. However, those two points are really the key things I have learned in the last couple of years.

5) What is the hardest thing about writing?
Whatever aspect of writing I happen to be doing at the time someone asks me this question. I know that sounds like I’m dodging having to answer but honestly it’s true.

When I’m planning, then it’s that I find the hardest, as that’s when I have to answer all the questions and work everything out. When I’m writing the first draft then that’s the hardest part, as I have to start from nothing and write the whole thing. When I’m revising then that’s the hardest part, as it’s very intensive and can feel impossible to see the wood for the trees at times.

Right now I want to say first draft, and I’m actually longingly looking forward to revising. However, I’m in the middle of a first draft so I would say that. However, revising does have it’s perks. It’s much easier to focus, as it’s quite analytical for most of the process, and it’s not on the computer until the end so there’s less distractions.

6) What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
It’s a sequel and I have never written one before for an original story. I’m struggling with how much to explain and describe, as obviously I need it to be understandable to a new reader, but at the same time I don’t want to bore someone who read the first book. It’s a balance that concerns me, though to be honest I don’t think I’ll know what to do until I get to revision. Then I’ll be able to better highlight problem areas.

7) What is the easiest thing about writing?
Writing is easy? Who knew. No in all seriousness, I suppose if I had to pick one aspect of writing as being easy, I would say initial concept of ideas. I have more ideas than I have time to write, these ideas aren’t fleshed out until I decide to work on them. Therefore I don’t actually know whether they could go anywhere.

I suppose I could say that it’s the inspiration part, that’s the easiest. However, concepts are essentially limitless, that have untapped potential as nothing is decided, nothing has been questioned and they haven’t hit the reality of the page. The initial idea stage is the giddy, amazing, rush which never lasts and usually doesn’t reoccur.


8) How long on average does it take you to write a book?
If by write, that means the first draft, then on average it takes a month. I suppose I’ve been influenced by NaNoWriMo. All my completed drafts have been written during a NaNo session. In the past I never usually took the entire month, finishing a couple of days early and taking quite a few days off during the month. Last November I actually finished the book within nine days, that’s the story that has since been revised and is going to be published, so it wasn’t all rubbish I wrote either.

I’m trying to be more consistent about how much I write, instead of binging and writing a ton on certain days, and then taking several days off before repeating the process. I’m a bit of a work in progress when it comes to consistency, I’m not very good at it. Anyway, it takes me a month to revise, or it did last time because I’ve only completed that process once. Therefore each book takes two months to produce, though obviously there’s a lot more that needs to be done before I can hit publish after that.

9) Do you ever get writer’s Block?
What is writer’s block? If it’s where I get stuck because I don’t know the answer during planning, then sure but it doesn’t last all that long. I walk away, go do something else, sometimes it might last a few hours, sometimes a few days, but then I work out the answer and it’s fine.

If writer’s block is where I don’t focus, and just stare at the screen then that happens all the time, even when I’m having a good day. On bad days, like today, the screen stays blank as I don’t type anything at all on the document. I’m not sure I would call this writer’s block, it’s not that there’s a problem with the story necessarily, it’s that there is a problem with me.

Therefore the answer is that I don’t know, I don’t think I would ever say that I had writer’s block. If I’m honest I think that’s the name given to a whole host of writer’s problems, and it means something different for every writer.

10) Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
This is hard to answer given what I said above. However, I guess I gave one method above already, I said I walk away and go do something else. I don’t believe that I have to have the muse, that I have to feel like writing in order to write. Instead I believe the opposite, that writing is far more about determination and making myself do it, than it is about inspiration.

Some days I don’t succeed in making myself write, that frustrates me as it’s not that I don’t want to write, it’s just that I didn’t focus. I suppose tips for helping to focus would be encouragement from friends, there’s also accountability, an incoming deadline and bribery. However, sometimes it just doesn’t happen. When it doesn’t happen, a tip would be not to beat yourself up about it, as that just causes a negative spiral which leads to less writing and not more. I’m incredibly bad at following that advice.

11) What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
As I’m currently writing one I suppose I think it’s a good idea. Supposedly when it comes to publication book series do better, as readers like characters and want to see more from them. I guess as a reader myself I like series for that reason. As a writer it’s a big challenge, which has rewards as plot-lines can play out across multiple books. It allows for more stories to be told about favorite characters or the fictional universe.

However, that being said I still think there’s a place for standalone novels. Just like there’s room for TV series and movies, which is a similar concept. Yeah some movies form their own series but otherwise it’s a single story vs a series of stories.

To Be Continued …

One thought on “A Writer’s Interview: Part Two

  1. Heh. As hard as they are to maintain sometimes, writing schedules are important. Well, I believe they are important, and a big part in the key to success. Does that mean I’m good at keeping one? Hell, no. It’s something I aspire to work toward, though.

    Your inspiration is very similar to mine. You are not alone. Heh.

    Man, I hope to someday be able to write as fast as you. I know you’ve said in the past that you don’t consider yourself fast, but, compared to me, you are. You can write a lot (again, compared to me) in a short space of time, if you have to. Me? I couldn’t, even if my life depended on it; I’d never make that kind of deadline. Yet.

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