Many thanks to Nick at The Parasite Guy for nominating me to take part in the current World Blog Hop! This turned out to be a fun exercise, and one that’s easy yet challenging. Easy because it involves only two steps:
- Answer five questions.
- Nominate two bloggers to continue the hop.
So, how is it challenging? Well, if you read the five questions that follow, you might know why. 😉 Here we go!
1. Include a quote that you like.
“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh
This quote came to me during a time when I was frustrated by a family member’s opinions about my writing. This person used to say things like “It’s just a hobby,” “You shouldn’t spend so much time on it,” or (in a lighthearted, almost joking manner) “You’ll have to stop writing when you get married and have kids.” Of course, I took none of them as jokes, or advice to be taken seriously. But the words – and lack of support – still stung.
I don’t remember how I came across Van Gogh’s quote, but when I did it was like chimes resounding in the breeze. It was beautiful, and it made all the sense in the world to me. Because if you replace the verb “paint” with other creativity-related verbs (“write,” “sing,” “draw,” etc.), it’s still relevant. It’s a reminder that if you believe in your craft and keep working hard at it, eventually you’ll silence the naysayers. They’ll learn to accept and recognize you for the artist you are. It also strengthened my resolve to keep writing even though others were encouraging me to quit.
The best part about this story? My reaction to Van Gogh’s quote inspired me to write “The Critic And The Muse,” a poem that was published last October in the 40th anniversary issue of The Curry Arts Journal. This wasn’t a first for me; I’d had success with having other poems published in print and online journals since April 2012. And once I started having that success, the discouraging and negative comments stopped.
2. Why do you create what you do?
I answered a similar question recently in my interview with YA fantasy author Mary Weber (she asked me questions while answering mine!). I’ve been writing ever since I learned how to write, and… I just love it. It allows me to express myself in ways I can’t verbally, and it gives me opportunities to learn and challenge myself. Also, I write because I can’t not write. Writing has become such a huge part of my life that it I don’t write, I feel incomplete, like something’s missing or I’m not honoring a part of who I am. I don’t know how else to explain it… Maybe my creative prose piece “Lifeblood” (published in the anthology More Great Writing by People You’ve Never Heard Of) can offer more insight.
I also view writing as my contribution to society. Whether it’s through a novel that touches readers with its characters or storylines, a poem that inspires others through its diction and imagery, a blog article on writing tips that fellow writers find useful, a tea review that compels someone to buy that tea, and so on… If what I write motivates, inspires, or helps someone who has read my work, then I know I’ve left a positive impact on the world.
3. How does your creative process work?
I’ll focus exclusively on novel-writing in this answer…
For the book I’m currently working on, I started with a rough idea of the plot and the characters. Next, I fleshed it all out further with an outline, noting important events, decisions, and the protagonist’s reactions and actions. Nothing specific like dialogue or setting details. Then, I started world-building to get a better sense of the universe I needed to create and developing a profile for my protagonist to understand her personality, backstory, and character arc. Ideally I should have finished the world-building and character development before writing the story. But I was so excited about the project that after just a couple weeks, I said, “Screw it,” and dove in. *lol* I’ve been world-building and character-developing (mostly for the supporting cast) since then, though.
When I write, I use what writing coach Hillary Rettig calls the “writercopter” method. Instead of working on the story chronologically, I work on whatever scene is inspiring me at the time. That way, if I’m stuck on a particular part, I move on to another scene I see more clearly, then come back to the trouble spots another time. It’s really helped me write the novel more efficiently. However, it’s also forced me to be extremely organized in tracking what parts have or haven’t been written, and made me thankful I use an outline! Once Draft #1 is done, I’ll have to do a comprehensive revision sweep in Draft #2 to fix inconsistencies, see what I’ve missed, and account for how much the story has evolves since I started working on it. (Yikes!)
Right now, my novel-writing schedule is limited to weekends and days off from my full-time job. Start and end times for each writing session depend on what else is going on that weekend. Some days, I have the luxury of writing for 5 or 6 hours (with breaks in between, of course!). Other days, I’m limited to 2 or 3 hours. I don’t set a word count goal for each writing session as a result. Instead, I sit down and dedicate whatever time I know I have to focus on the story. IMO, progress is progress, no matter how much or how little.
Oh, and I never work on my story at night. Writing sessions are like exercises for my imagination; I need wind-down time afterwards. So, if I work on my story too late at night, I rarely sleep afterwards no matter how tired I feel. That’s why I’m a daytime writer.
4. How does your work differ from others in your genre?
This is a toughie. I’m so intensely focused on the work itself that I’m not sure how to describe it from a broader or “outside” perspective. I’d like to think that what comes through my writing is a passion and authenticity that’s unique based on my tastes, vocabulary, ideas, and reading experiences.But that’s what all writers aim for, right?
Two things I’m especially interested in achieving as a writer are a) a focus on internal character growth as a result of the external plot, and b) to use strong, vivid writing. By the latter, I mean avoiding dialogue tags, adverbs, and using distant phrases like “I felt threatened,” “I was sad,” and the like. My favorite stories suck me in to the point that I’m experiencing the plot with the main characters and feeling their emotions, reactions, even their injuries. Those are the kinds of stories I want to create for my readers.
5. What are you working on right now?
I’m working on the first draft of a YA fantasy novel with a female protagonist. No title yet, but that’s not a priority right now. My goal originally was to finish this draft by the end of 2014 – but it looks like I’m going to overshoot my intended word count goal, so I won’t be surprised if it stretches into the first quarter of 2015. *makes a face* You can find out more about this novel and what I’ve learned while writing it through my Chronicling The Craft series.
Besides the novel, I’m constantly working on blog articles for this site and others, as well as tea reviews for A Bibliophile’s Reverie. In other words, I’m always writing something – and that brings me joy!
My Nominees for the Blog Hop
So, here are my two nominees to continue the Blog Hop. They’re both writers from the speculative fiction realm. (And to both nominees: If you’re not interested in taking part in the Blog Hop, that’s perfectly OK. Just know that I wanted to recognize you.)
Sarah J. Higbee is a British science fiction writer and creative writing instructor. She’s had numerous poems and short stories published in Abandoned Towers, Every Day Fiction, Fear and Trembling, and other outlets. And, of course, Sarah blogs too! She reviews books such as James Lovegrove’s Sherlock Holmes: Gods of War and K.T. Davies’ Breed, gives updates on her novel-writing adventures and other projects, and shares other things that pique her interest.
E.M. Castellan is also based in England (she actually lives in a castle!) and writes YA historical and fantasy fiction. She’s also an avid reader and blogger, and is one of the contributors at The Great Noveling Adventure. At her personal site, E.M. writes about books she’s current reading (such as Erika Robuck’s Fallen Beauty) and yet-to-be-published novels she’s looking forward to reading (like Melissa Gray’s The Girl at Midnight). She also interviews debut authors (her most recent one was with Karina Sumner-Smith, whose first novel Radiant came out in September) and holds occasional book giveaways.