[30 Questions for Writers] It’s Been a Hard Day’s Night…

Life has this way of getting to you. For me, the end of the semester consumes most of my time (in my non-writing life, I work in academia) and therefore, I disappear. But commencement is over, the first rush of summer paperwork is complete, and I have exactly one day to relax before my summer classes start.

Long story short: I have written some, edited some, #pitmad-ed semi-successfully and now can rearrange my schedule to work for me. I have a series to finish this coming month (and book two in a trilogy to finally get down), a series to plan, and more edits on The Final Rose.

But first, to keep my moment up… (and give you far too much to read):

30 Questions for Writers

(tagged by erin)

Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.

My favorite writing project/universe would have to be the one I am editing, The Final Rose. There was something when I was writing that just felt right. All of these ideas rush to me, connecting subplots and creating symbolism and twists that I didn’t have on my original outline.

Even now, re-reading it, I think there’s a lot of depth to that story and universe. There is another series set in the universe which I will be working on by the end of the year.

How many characters do you have? Do you prefer males or females?

For a fantasy writer, I actually keep somewhat small casts. I do have some novels that are more sprawling with split parties and adventures in different places, but most of the time, I try to keep it to a handful of major/main (5 or so) and then just a few important minor characters.

I don’t prefer either, but I know I seem to write more male main characters in my fantasy stories and more female main characters in my non-fantasy stories. I have no idea why.

How do you come up with names, for characters (and for places if you’re writing about fictional places)?

Well, with the fantasies, I usually go to generators until I see something I can play with. A few times the names have just come to me (Wenna from Bottle of Sunset or Task Tannes from The Final Rose). Places are much of the same.

There was one novel when I was much younger (at least 13 years ago) when I would smash the keyboard and go with whatever was there.

Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

My first story? “The Friendly Ghost” when I was seven. I don’t think that counts…

My first completed novel was Sub Rosa. A fantasy (surprise) that followed a female main character who was an assassin with a very stylish elf partner. They were tricked into helping the Big Bad resurrect himself, which turns into a whole quest.

The female character was Rosalin, the orphaned daughter of (what turned out to be) quite famous parents. The elf was Ardre, who was a variation of elf that had him unaccepted by both wood and water alike. The two misfits did well together.

By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest? How about “youngest” and “oldest” in terms of when you created them?

If we’re just counting characters under this pen name, my youngest character is either Fyran or Cecily from my novella duology, Midsummer’s Reflection and Midwinter’s Choice. They’re both sixteen and at the cusp of becoming themselves.

My oldest is Ikala from The Final Rose. She may appear young but her true age is part of the story.

My “youngest” would be the idea I just came up with last night (because why turn the brain off). The main characters have yet to be named but they are a set of quadruplet princes.

My “oldest”… That has to be Aralyn, the Roc-riding character in my high school short stories. Long red hair, penchant for wearing yellow, loved birds. I haven’t written anything with her in a very long time.

Where are you most comfortable writing? At what time of day? Computer or good ol’ pen and paper?

My preference is on my laptop, early morning, with warm coffee by my side. But it isn’t often that things go to preference when there is a young child and a full-time job.

So I usually either write at night (anytime after 9pm is late) or fountain pen and paper on the train during the commute.

Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters?

I am big on listening to video game remixes while I write because there are no words to distract me and I can hum along without thinking about it. OCRemix is my go-to.

Sometimes I will hear a song and relate it to my characters but it isn’t too often.

What’s your favorite genre to write? To read?

To Write: Fantasy, horror, thriller, usually all adult with some YA sprinkled about.

To Read: Fantasy, horror, thriller, usually all adult with some YA sprinkled about. Also non-fiction about historical figures, science, or the writing process.

How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.

Well, I come up with my story ideas a little strangely (I go Title -> Plot -> Characters) so usually, once I have the first two, I think of what type of character would serve well in that plot. Once I start thinking about that, usually something comes to mind: gender, some description, personality, etc.

Occasionally, I’ll get the idea for a character first, mostly the problem they need to solve. Then it is fleshing them out, seeing the plot around their problem, and eventually building the novel around them.

What are some really weird situations your characters have been in? Everything from serious canon scenes to meme questions counts!

Weird situations…

Well, in Bottle of Sunset, the explorers are mucking around in the swamps, trying to call on pixies. It’s not so successful…

In the sequel, Shard of Sea, they get captured by desert-dwelling elves. Everything is just not where it’s meant to be.

Who is your favorite character to write? Least favorite?

With this pen name, my favorite character is Jene from the aforementioned seven book series, hands down. He is a cranky old bastard which I can relate to.

Least favorite character would be Ziove from The Final Rose. I’m never truly in her point-of-view so it’s hard to relay some of the things she’s going to do or things she’s thinking via her body language and cryptic dialogue. It’s the reason that the edits for The Final Rose are taking so long!

In what story did you feel you did the best job of world building? Any side-notes on it you’d like to share?

The story with the best world-building is definitely the universe of Terrosya where The Final Rose and the seven book series is located. I have maps. I have magic systems. I have political intrigue.

What’s your favorite culture to write, fictional or not?

The Oriadians from Terrosya. They’re musically-inclined people who have a city full of spectres and hauntings which are just normal for them. They’re the most urban of my many settings in Terrosya which makes for a much more fun atmosphere.

How do you map out locations, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

Inkarnate is my go-to tool. Sometimes I just draw maps out and save them for later. Here’s one of the land of Adomar (which isn’t going to be quite the best map).

Midway question! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether professional or not!

Brandon Sanderson. I want his output, his affability and his book deals.

Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you willing to go in your writing?

I think most novels I’ve written have some form of romance, either in the forefront or as an established relationship. For example, the romance of Task and Ziove is the driving force for some of The Final Rose. Counter to that, the already-set marriage of Ceack and Val in Obscura is just a part of their character.

I don’t think that full-out sex scenes are appropriate for most of my novels, but I’m not afraid to go there if the story calls for it.

Favorite protagonist and why!

Wenna from Bottle of Sunset (and the rest of that unnamed trilogy). She’s a strong character who just has one thing after another shatter the illusion of knowledge she has. By the time the third book comes, she’s going to be almost completely different.

Favorite antagonist and why!

Airaethon Ardhor from Obscura (and the rest of the Mist Trilogy). He’s very serpent-like in his actions and causes a lot of behind the scenes chaos before he’s revealed.

Favorite minor that decided to shove himself into the spotlight and why!

Actually, this is from what I’m writing now, but Wilford Garnot from The Lies of Jade and Ivory. He was meant to just be the roommate of the main character but now he’s become integral to the plot.

What are your favorite character interactions to write?

Arguments. In my first drafts, I’ll let them play out longer than they should so I can explore the emotions and true feelings of the character. Once I go back for edits, I can streamline it and bring in more characterization.

Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?

In my fantasy novels right now, no. Under a different pen name, I have a few characters with children. Getting the right age-appropriate reactions and development takes some research, but no one has pointed out that I’m so far off with the ages just yet.

Tell us about one scene between your characters that you’ve never written or told anyone about before!

I had to think about this one for awhile. I reveal a lot of things to my beta readers and critique partners. But though this scene is referenced in the novel, the original scene where Geir lets Task go in The Final Rose has never been written. It’s too far in the past to be relevant in the current novel, but serves as an important reference.

How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story—from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)?

I am (and I’m not sure if I like the term) a “fast drafter.” When I have the time and motivation, I can write a significant number of words a day and my typing speed is relatively fast.

I usually can deal with planning and plotting in a month or so, unless it is a challenge novel (which I have a few from WriYe). I like to have a basic stats sheet with a small synopsis. A title is a must. And at least my main character, a minor character and the antagonist (whether corporeal or non-). Some world-building is necessary but I let a good amount develop as I write the first draft. I just make note of it in a notebook.

Then writing can take anywhere from a month to three. It depends on the challenge, the ease of writing (my thrillers are far easier for me to write than fantasies), and the POV. I can write first faster but I like deep third more.

How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most interesting way you’ve killed someone?

Oh yes. Many characters have died. And many more will yet.

I won’t say what novel, but I do have a character who is eaten by a sightless, underground wyrm.

Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.

One of my characters (in a series I am developing) has a pet griffin who acts like a cat. His name is Griff. They pretend he is a cat.

Let’s talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite picture of him!

I have zero artistic ability. I suppose others could draw them if anything was published – either self or trade – or shared on the internet, but it is not. Yet.

Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters.

The only time I bring in appearances is when I am introducing a fantasy creature. Or if the physical feature has some significance to the plot or is symbolic in a way.

Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there’s nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

I have. One of the characters in The Final Rose is revealed to be an addict (which I suppose is a stretch for this question). One character will be crippled by the removal of part of his body.

In other novels, I have had characters with limbs missing, characters with fractured personalities, and one with PTSD (in a sense). I tend to be very careful when writing these sorts of things since I do not have firsthand experience and I don’t want to offend by getting it wrong.

How often do you think about writing? Ever come across something IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?

All the time? Okay, that’s not truthful. A lot of the time I think about writing. Outside of my digital world, there are instances where I may be reminded of my writing (especially when I have students who act like some of my less mature characters) but that’s rare.

Final question! Tag someone! (And the part I missed: And tell us what you like about that person as a writer and/or about one of his characters! )

Paging Liz. Liz, to your blog please.

edit: So I somehow copied this question down wrong. Because that’s my life. So! What I admire about Liz:

  1. She has NEVER stopped trying to perfect her writing and her novel. I have been around with her with MoD since…almost day 1, I want to say. And she has been so dedicated about getting it done, getting it edited, and perfecting her craft to make it perfect.
  2. She’s always willing to try something new, even waking up at 4:30 am ;).
  3. She has thick skin. Thicker than mine by far! She never lets things stop her completely. And I won’t let her so… Tough. You’re stuck, Liz.

[#reviseandrevive] An Introduction

This year is the year I’ve decided to get serious with my writing. And to do so means editing, revising and eventually publishing. Last month was editing – developmental on my side – so this month is putting those edits to work in my revision.

My novel is the same I was doing last month for #editnfriends.

The Final Rose is an epic fantasy novel that I hope feels like a Final Fantasy game has been written in prose. It’s currently long at 137,000 words and is only looking like it’ll get closer to 150k that I’d like.

The basic premise is:

Every seven years, droughts hit Adomar. To appease the Gods and bring rain, a tribute bearer is chosen by the divine to travel to the Floating Islands and barter for blessings. Never before had a tribute bearer returned.

This time, the chosen tribute bearer is the princess of Adomar, Ziove. In an effort to save her from the fate of the others, a traveling part is established. The strongest knight. A well-known mage. A summoner with knowledge beyond time. And a peasant to serve as bait and barter.

To choose the peasant, the king frames it as a challenge to be won, complete with prize purse. Task Tannes, a local con artist and thief, decides that the purse is worth the trouble it will take to flee his responsibilities.

But when he can’t escape and is forced on the journey, his life changes completely. It turns out that there are things more important than gold, and it is worth the sacrifice to save it.

The main character is Task Tannes. The other POV character is his rival, Sir Geir, the knight master of Adomar. In alternating (not symmetrical or in any given rhythm) POVs, I hope to show how each goes closer toward the middle (and beyond) to understand each other and help save the princess.

Right now, my romance is lacking. I need a lot more set up scenes. And there are parts I need to revise and expand (many). So that’s my focus for the month.

Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to watch me suffer through it by reading along. Bonus mission? Participate as well. Use the hashtag on social media. Bother others to do it as well.

Writing and editing may be solitary, but venting is communal.

[WriYe Blogging Circle] This is How We Do It

It’s that time again! The monthly blogging circle topic. It’s a bit of #editnfriends and a lot of WriYe. Here are the questions:

Describe your editing process. What is your biggest challenge in editing?

I think I’ve mentioned this a few times on here in the past week, but in case I didn’t make it clear: I am overly critical and hate my words. I have low self-esteem when it comes to my own abilities as a writer. And I rely on friends to tell me that I’m being dumb.

Does that mean everything I write is horrendous and need to be burned? No. Wait… No. Right. No.

Have I found things that I like on rereading? If you asked me last year? It’d be no. But I actually reread a novella I wrote back in 2013 and loved it. Again with that long gap.

So what’s my process to avoid this sort of self-loathing? Here’s a bullet point list:

  • Wait a long time. Try to cut that down to a year. Or two years. Stretch goal: just months.
  • Reread as a reader. Not an editor. Not a writer. Just as if I was there to enjoy.
  • Absorb what I read. Drink a few J&Gs. Write anything else.
  • Go back and start to map out scenes and plot. Figure out what the hell my characters were thinking. Tell them to behave and act like real people. No, you cannot just run off and say “forget this.”
  • Take out The Book and The Pen and write down an editing plan
    • How does the plot need to change
    • How do the characters need to change
    • Basic plot arc with subplots noted on the bottom
    • Short description of how each subplot adds to the main plot and how they get all tied up
    • List of words to avoid during rewrite
    • Reassurance that I can survive
  • Get on the computer. And start again. Whether this is full rewrite, partial rewrite, or line edis.

With luck, The Final Rose will be the same way, even with the crazy word count.

Bonus:
Tell us about your ideal critique partner. What do you look for in a critique partner?

Well, I have a few good ones right now. We have a group that we’ve kept going for a number of years. We write different genres, different age levels, and for different audiences.

I think that helps when it comes to critiquing. We have a system where if it is genre-related or we think it might be, we mark it as [GR]. Other than that, writing is writing is writing. And sometimes it’s nice to have my romance-writing friend tell me that she likes scenes of my high fantasy story.

If I had to get a new one, though? I’d probably want someone else who is currently writing in high fantasy. And someone who is currently reading what’s coming out in the genre. I’m a bit far behind thanks to having a Little Monster, but I try to keep up on the trends.

I’d want someone who knew how to couch their harsher critique in the sandwich method (something good – a problem – something else good), as long as I had the bread to make sandwich, so to speak. And someone who would look at what I am asking for and give me that. Usually, I ask a few questions with my critique requests.

I’d want someone who wrote at a similar level to me, who sent me things that have already been self-edited to the best of their ability. I don’t expect perfection; I expect readability. And someone who has a goal with their novel post-me.

I’m always open for more partners, but I warn you: I am slow as a snail in a swimming pool of molasses.

Editing Update:

Chapter: 06/24

Pen refills: 0

Scenes sliced: 2

Planned Scenes to Add: 5

Darlings killed: 0

Tears: 0

Current Concern: Why did I make Ziove’s hand in marriage part of the prize? No.

[#editnfriends] We’ve Only Just Begun…

Image courtesy of erin foster as posted on Words n’ Friends

And so it begins, the quest for a nicely polished manuscript. Truthfully, it began a few weeks ago when I decided to re-read The Final Rose with the hope that it made some logical sense. Sense is there, but so is a sped through middle. Alas, poor words, I meant to write thee.

The re-read is almost over with, thank the many gods. It’s hard for me to go back and look at what I had written because I am overcritical of myself. Common writer problem, I find, and one that we should all work on together. There’s good and bad in all of our writing and becoming self-aware of our strengths would do us good. It’ll make us better writers in the end.

Stepping off that soapbox, I will admit to doing something that goes completely against bettering myself as a writer. I had sent part of this tome of words (About seven chapters or so) to my loyal critique group. I read the critiques years ago and put them aside, never looking at them again.

Well, Saturday, I opened up what I thought was my clean version of chapter one. And it was not. It was covered in critique from erin foster. Critique that I did not want to see at that moment. What could I have done? Closed the damn tab. What did I do? I read it.

And, ladies and gentleman, I have finally seen the light. Nothing in that critique hurt. Everything made sense. (Granted, this was on the second draft so it better have been good.) I think I have discovered the right distance from this novel to start working on it. To mentally acknowledge that these are just words and words can be rewritten.

So, if you are like me and pretend to be tough but have the weak skin of paper, give yourself a few days before reading that critique. Or read it, thank the critiquer (always! Even if you disagree with every letter on that page), and step back. Maybe not three years, like I have, but for a few days. A week. Maybe even a month.

When you look at it again with fresh eyes, remind yourself that the critique isn’t on you, your story (most of the time) or your personal family members (though they may feel that way). This is just letting you know that your words aren’t conveying what you want them to convey. The story isn’t shining through because it has the wrong clothing on.

Change the words, change the outfit.