Since I started doing this whole writing thing seriously, I’ve had a lot of people ask questions about it. Mostly they’re spur-of-the-moment type conversations that might come up while I’m out running errands or while I’m at work. Sometimes they come to me over instant messenger or pop up in my email inbox. Sometimes it’s idle chatter during get-togethers and parties.
The questions are usually along the same lines, though sometimes I get a few that surprise me. For sake of documentation, I’ve decided to try to take a few minutes each week to answer a handful of questions that get sent my way. So here’s a handful of questions I was asked today!
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: I’m not actually sure how to answer this, because I don’t know. Writing wasn’t something I just started doing, it’s something that’s always sort of been a part of me. I have a folder in my craft room full of old drawings and stories. The oldest story I’m aware of is from 18 years ago, I would have been 7 years old at the time. But I know that wasn’t the beginning. By that point, my spelling was decent, my punctuation was decent, and my typing was pretty good too, since it’s one I wrote in LotusWorks on my Dad’s old DOS-based computer.
If the question is more along the lines of when did I start writing seriously, I’m a little better equipped to answer that. I started my first real novel when I was 16, which was 9 years ago. It’s been started and restarted several times since then, but I think its current incarnation is the most solid it will ever be.
Q: Where you get your ideas and character development from?
A: Story ideas are everywhere around me. I rarely have ideas that come to me in bits and pieces, usually it all comes in one big chunk. Most of my story ideas come from dreams I have, as I tend to be a very vivid dreamer. Other things that inspire me can be difficult to keep track of, as the concepts usually just spring to mind fully-formed. The most recent example is an outline for a story that I have written down in one of the notebooks I carry with me everywhere. The idea jumped into mind, fully developed, after passing emergency vehicles stopped around an accident on the interstate. (Fortunately, nobody appeared to be badly hurt. Just a few scrapes and bruises.) My husband was driving, so I had my hands free to get hold of my notebook and write it all down.
As for character development… to be honest, I don’t get it anywhere! One of my favorite parts of writing is giving a chance to let characters bring themselves to life. I usually start with an unrefined notion of what they are, but I never know what they’re going to become. My writing method is very organic, I tend just let them become what they will as I write. Not all characters end up interesting to read about, not all of them end up being likable. But then, aren’t there some people who are like that, too?
Q: Do you schedule a time to sit down and write or do you just sit down and write whenever?
A: I’m most creative at night, so I try to keep a little time free in the evenings to write something. I hope for the chance to write every day. It usually doesn’t happen, so I try not to get too stressed if it doesn’t pan out the way I plan. My goal this year is to get 1,000 words written every day. I’m a little behind due to house remodeling projects, but I should be caught up in a week or two.
Q: What do you find most helpful when you’re having trouble working out details of what you’re working on?
A: To stop writing. This is actually one of the hardest things for me to deal with! If something isn’t working out or coming out the way I want, it can be pretty frustrating. But since I try to let the story flow as naturally as possible when writing, I figure if I hit a roadblock, I’m doing something wrong. I used to try to muscle my way past it, but my teacher in college taught me something about art that applies to writing as well: If it isn’t working, give it time. Take a break, clear your head, come back to it later and you’ll see exactly what’s wrong.
So if the details or workings of something just aren’t flowing onto paper, I call it a night, eat some candy and do something else! Usually if I give it a day or two instead of trying to force past it, the problem becomes glaringly obvious. Sometimes it means going back and changing a lot to let a new idea fit, sometimes it’s just minor edits or tweaks to reroute the story.
Of course, I’m also of the opinion that eating some candy is always the solution.
Have a question you’d like to ask? Feel free to leave me a comment!