Writer Q&A: Get to Know Me!
Recently, I saw a Youtube video from a writer who had done a Q&A for her followers. It was fascinating to hear about someone else's writing life, so I composed a list of questions from this website and thought I would share a little about mine!
1. What inspired you to start writing?
As a kid, I was always making up stories with my sister. Through my elementary school days, we acquired an impressive number of stuffed animals and played with them like they were high schoolers (which explains why I've always been drawn to Young Adult!). I also remember playing with these Power Puff Girls figures we'd gotten in a McDonald's Happy Meal. I constantly found ways to turn inanimate objects into characters, too, like ornaments on the Christmas tree. I started writing because I've always been a storyteller.
2. When did you start writing?
I started probably in elementary school. One time, I grabbed stacks of printer paper, folded them in half, stapled them together, and wrote little books in there, complete with illustrations. Then I put them in a cardboard box, set them in the hallway, and wrote a sign that said FREE BOOKS.
In middle school, I upgraded to a spiral bound notebook (my "notebook jot," as I called it) and wrote short (very terrible) stories in there. I didn't start journaling until the age of twelve or thirteen. This was about the time I began to think of myself as writer. (Read my earliest journal entries here!)
3. Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Subconsciously, yes. If you'd asked me around the age of five what I wanted to be, though, I would have told you astronaut or a painter. As I said, though, I've always been making up stories.
4. What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?
I have a post about my best writing advice summed up in six words here, but as it pertains to new writers . . . just have fun. Don't worry about getting published. Don't worry about wether or not it's good. Don't worry about showing it to anyone, and . . . this may be the most controversial piece of writing advice, but . . . don't even worry about finishing a book. Seriously! Don't stress yourself out with trying to write a literary masterpiece on your first try. Instead, think of your first book (or short story or poem) as a trial run. If you lose interest, don't sweat it. Follow your intuition and start something new.
This is especially pertinent advice for young writers in middle or high school. It's natural to outgrow projects or ideas, so don't feel like you have to stay in a committed marriage with just one book (this is the one and only context in which I will endorse infidelity!). As you age, and as your confidence and stamina grow, you'll find yourself sticking with projects for longer before you abandon them. On my very first project, I only made it two paragraphs (I was a ten-year old writing about being a Pokemon trainer), but by the time I was thirteen, I'd filled an entire spiral-bound notebook with the story of six kids who crash on a haunted island (yes, this was when my brother showed me LOST).
5. How do you handle writer’s block?
Writer's block is hardly a problem for me, or if it is, it doesn't last long. The more frequently I write, the more momentum I have. The trick is to keep the faucet on. If you do, the muse, the ideas, will come.
But sometimes the ideas just will not come. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of writing prompts. In fact, I don't like forcing the muse or writing half-baked ideas--but I'm not exactly a fan of waiting around for an idea, either. What I do is put myself into a creative state of mind. Exploring other mediums like music, TV shows, movies and books really help me. I may see something and say, hey, that's really cool! I think I'd like to write a book with a monster for an antagonist. As long as you don't rip off another writer's ideas completely, you're good.
6. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
This is a big question and super subjective, so I can only speak for myself. What makes good writing, in my opinion, are honesty and depth. Earning your readers trust is incredibly important. This means telling them the truth about some aspect of the world, even if it's ugly or unpleasant. I add depth as the other most important element of writing because the two go hand in hand--honesty and depth. The more honest you are--the digger you deep--the more layers you'll add to your writing, especially because truth isn't always black and white. It's often nuanced. The simpler you can translate truth, though, the more it will resonate.
7. What comes first, the plot or characters?
Definitely the characters! As someone who writes contemporary YA, compelling, well-developed characters are a must. I especially love messy, deeply-flawed, and even irrational characters.
8. How do you develop your plot and characters?
I touched on this earlier, but I let the characters take their time. It never takes a day to get to know someone, so it should never take a day to get to know a character, either. I kind of have a hybrid process for getting to know/develop characters. I may see something in my everyday life that clicks for me--maybe someone's facial feature or the way they speak. If it inspires me, I'll write it down. Other times, I'll develop characters as I write the first draft, then go back in on the second draft to add details and nuance.
9. How do you come up with the titles to your books?
I'm kind of bad at that, actually. For my second book, I wrote a story around a title. This is definitely the most organic way to title a book. Ever read a book but have no clue how the title is related? Yeah, me too. My first instinct is to title the book after a bit of dialogue if a title doesn't immediately jump out at me.
10. Describe your writing space.
At the moment, my writing space is my bedroom. I have a swivel recliner near my window, which overlooks my neighborhood and the western New York (probably overcast) sky. The walls are sea foam green, the floor beneath me is covered in a shaggy-and-ratty white rug (which I really should replace), and a candle is almost always burning.
11. What time of the day do you usually write?
This depends. One semester in college, I wrote every day from 8-10 a.m; while I had my first job, I wrote in the evenings after work when I wasn't totally exhausted or hangry. Now, I would say my favorite time to write is late morning or early afternoon.
12. Describe a typical writing day.
It varies somewhat, but normally, it starts with a cup of coffee. This conditions my brain to start writing. Then the headphones go in (although they're currently lost right now. Classic.) so I can immerse myself in the world of my story. On a good day, I can generate a thousand words in two or three hours (for fiction, at least). After this, my brain is usually shot.
13. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
Running out of steam is probably the most frustrating. I hate when I'm really in the groove, but then run out of mental and emotional energy. It's like falling asleep during a really good movie (especially a really exciting scene from a really good movie). You desperately want to keep watching, but your eyelids have other plans.
14. What is your work schedule like when you are writing?
When I worked full time (or when I was a student), I couldn't get as much writing done for two reasons: it wasn't a priority, and I didn't have the emotional or mental energy to write. When I worked part-time (or not at all), I got a crap ton more writing done.
I'm not one of those writers who feels the need to write every day. Sometimes I just don't have it in me, and I don't punish myself for it. I know other writers would discourage this, but I write when I'm feeling inspired or when I feel like it. I will say, however, that the more consistent my writing life is, the more writing gets done. Consistency is key.