An Interview With The Awesome And Creative James Stryker

Again I find it necessary to be thankful to Twitter and its ability to connect people. I stumbled across James Stryker on Twitter and fell in love with the concept of his then upcoming novel, Assimilation. I was eager to get my hands on it and found a generous author willing to give me a copy for a review, and so started my love for James’s work.

In addition to being kind enough to have furnished me with copies of his books in exchange for my thoughts, he agreed to spend some time to do a video interview with me to discuss his books and his own writing journey so far. He was also generous enough with his time and thoughts to read my own novel and willingly discussed it with me with interest, criticism, and praise.

So without further ado, my friend and colleague, James Stryker!

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DM: Thank you again, so much, for being willing to do this (interview)

JS: Thank you very much for your time. It’s a pleasure, an honor. I love talking to other authors and having the chance to talk about my stuff and – I mean I know you sent me a list of questions but please feel free to talk about your stuff as well.

(The man is humble and truly enjoys discussing others’ work. I let him know that while I appreciated that, this interview was about him, so we tried to keep the focus on James.)

DM: So, I’m not sure which to ask about first, Assimilation or Boy: A Journey, but essentially I’m really curious about the same thing on both of them, and that is, what’s the first thing you remember as far as your idea, the seed of that idea?

JS: Well, I’ll speak to Assim first. I did a brief stint at a funeral home, and so I’ve always just been very interested in cadaver prep, like embalmings, cremations, and all that really good stuff has always been very interesting to me. And I was just researching one day, just reading about a lot of the new advancements and everything with the cryonic preservation theories and about the new challenges that they have and all that kind of good stuff and something that I ran across was that an inherent part of that invasive procedure is just the impact on brain tissue. Like, if it becomes successful, there is a very real possibility that someone could come back and have different personality traits. Also, just knowing that gender identity, possibility, and expression, the brain just plays a huge role in that, more so than just genitalia. So I had the image of a young man basically paralyzed in a hospital bed opening his eyes to a different man expecting his wife and child so, the story just kind of built itself from there. One of those, what if this were the kind of thing that could happen and it truly could.

For Boy, I’ve always just been really passionate about being an advocate for the transgender community. I have a lot of friends and am involved in a lot of the online support scene for it and something that’s just personally always bothered me a little bit, and I know it bothers a lot of other transgender people, is that there’s a lot of sensationalism around it. It’s constantly seen as something that’s very dramatic, it’s constantly erupting, it’s just this scarlet letter that will follow you for the rest of your life, and that might be true for some people, and I’m definitely not mocking that or knocking it at all, but I think there’s a segment of the transgender population where they transition and then they just carry on because they don’t see their true authentic self as being transgender. So, it doesn’t impact them on a daily basis and it’s so seamless that you would really just never know, and my idea was that if a transgender person that chose they wouldn’t have to reveal their past to anyone, and really under the right circumstance, I don’t think they would even have to reveal it to their children. When I brought that idea up in a few circles, several people kind of doubted that it was possible. I actually even had a psychologist tell me that there was no way it could be down so I just decided well, screw you guys, I’m going to write it because it is possible.

DM: I really loved the ideas. That was my first desire really, was to know where the spark of each of those came from because they were such interesting possibilities.

JS: Thank you, I really appreciate that. High praise coming from you.

 

After a moment of my patented awkward and extremely appreciative thank you, we delved further into a discussion about some of the elements in Boy: A Journey and how they relate to the transgender community.

JS: In my involvement with the community I’ve met a great array of people and there are some individuals where they identify as transgender and that journey is so meaningful and impactful to them that they always- that is how they prefer to be known and they are comfortable with other people knowing that, and not to say that the faction of folks that I write about is not comfortable telling people, obviously in Boy: A Journey is, but I think that what you see in the media all the time is all the drama and all the people that it’s just, sorry for lack of a better word, is just constant drama, constant upheaval, and it’s never just something that you move beyond where I think that the dream of a lot of young transgender people just is, I’m going to go through transition and then I’m going to carry out my life as if I were a “normal” man or a “normal” woman, that can be done. One of the, I know there’s the whole big thing about the bathroom issue and there so many great stories that were posted in light of that, of pictures of people who are transgender, and you walk by them every day on the street and you have no idea, but it’s not those people that you see in the media, or that you see in a lot of books and, in my personal opinion, I just feel like that’s where a lot of transgender folks really do fall and so I wanted to write about those people.

The other thing that I definitely do want to add is that, what I just love about gender expression and identity is that, you also then have a faction of people where they identify as they/them or both and that gender fluidity which is wonderful, that’s not the type of people that I write about it, but I just think that that’s incredibly as well. Just capturing everything. I really loved working with Nine Star Press because that’s what they do, they capture all of the binary or as much as one can.

Even if you pop into some of the transgender chat rooms and support groups, so much of it is upheaval. I’ve talked to a lot of teens and young people who are starting the process and the constant fear I see is you know, I’m never going to be normal, I’m going to be this freak, people are going to look at me and they’re going to know immediately, and it doesn’t have to be like that.

I hope that even though I kill Jay off immediately, that maybe that gives some kind of empowerment to folks who think that ‘I’m always going to be seen as weird or a freak,’ you don’t!

DM: Definitely. I do have to say that, Jay may have been killed off immediately but he was a huge presence throughout the book. You did such a good job of giving a character who wasn’t there, character.

JS: Thank you, I appreciate that.

 

On the subject of Jay, we discussed further some of the changes that can occur after someone dies, like that they almost become a different person to different people.

JS: It was great to explore how this man is seen in three different lights from three different people, all of his motives are questioned in three different ways, and I just, I really enjoyed that because I see that so often and have experienced that when someone does pass away.

DM: How long did it take you to finish writing Assimilation and Boy: A Journey?

JS: Well, actually for Assimilation it went very very quickly. I wrote that over the span of a couple of weeks actually, after the initial idea was completed. I’m a very fast writer and what I’ll do is I’ll take time off of work and I will write. I can write up to 15k, 18K a day because I’ll just go for hours.

DM: Wow..

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JS: Really, Boy: A Journey was a challenge because I mulled that idea over and over, had dozens of false starts, like, several different ways I tried to go about it because I really, again, it was very important to me to represent that faction of the transgender community and I wanted to do a good job at it, so I started it several, several times. It took about seven years before that was finished, so I ended up finishing Assim first.

DM: How long did it take you to get Assimilation published, from when you decided you were done and going to start?

JS: I finished that in, oh…February 2014 and it took me over a year for me to get it published because after I finish writing I don’t immediately send it out, I do the editing, I let it sit in the sock drawer for a while, that kind of good stuff. I sent that query to, probably over a hundred agents and publishers and wasn’t really getting any bites until I went through #SFFPits on Twitter and it got picked up by Momentum Pan Macmillan. So, the entire process was probably, from completion, a year and a half to get that published.

DM: That’s pretty awesome.

JS: Yeah, it went well, I think.

DM: I have such a problem with that, a pitch is hard enough but especially when you’re pitching on Twitter it’s just….ahhh!

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JS: Yeah, no, and there’s so many like amazing stories out there, to really make yours stand out, it can be quite challenging. There’s Twitter contests that I would enter that I would get tons of faves and then others where it just seemed like it got lost in the shuffle so, it all just really depends.

DM: As writers we all know that we put pieces of ourselves and our characters in our stories, what would you say is perhaps a trait or a characteristic of yours that you put into one of your characters? (in any novel you’ve written)

JS: Well, I think that kind of leads into one of the questions you were going to ask about my favorite book, I really think it kind of leads into that. Because normally I do try to separate myself somewhat. I mean I put in a little bit of how I act in to everyone but really try not to write me.

DM: Yeah, of course.

JS: However, while I really do love all of my books, a novel that I completed a couple of years ago that’s really meant a lot to me and I put a great deal of myself in that book. To be frank I was in a very dark place when I wrote it because my wife and I had been trying to have a child for a very long period of time and it was not happening. I was actually finding it even difficult to leave my house because seeing children was triggering me into anxiety and I happened to make a joke to my wife one day that I just need to find a place where there were not any kids and the perfect job for me would be the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  That comment actually got the wheels turning and in doing some research I just discovered that there wasn’t really anything out there about his backstory and, I mean, this is a guy who, in 2005 he’s voted the scariest villain in children’s books and in 2008 Entertainment Weekly said that he was one of the 50 most vile movie villains but nowhere is there any explanation of why this guy does what he does. So, I really decided to try to take on that, and I reimagine him as a person who wasn’t evil but was suffering through some severe depression and just trying to cope with the inability to have children. Really, writing that book helped me to work through a lot of what I was feeling and it’s probably the most the most personal piece of writing that I’ve done. It’s difficult for me to read that over. It’s been difficult for beta readers who know me personally to read it because there is a lot of my feelings and anger and incredibly frustration in that. So, I do hope when that does get out there, that it’s able to help someone else feel not as alone. But I would say, in a long winded answer to your question, that’s where, of all of my books, I really wrote about me and my struggles and so it’s very meaningful to me.

DM: Gotcha. Wow. I really appreciate you sharing all of that with me. That was definitely one of the books I saw that you had that would be coming out that I was like, ‘I have to have that, I have to read this, I really want to know!’

JS: I would very much love to get your thoughts on it. It’s the only one right now that is not actively doing anything, it’s just hanging out there. Again, it’s a difficult one for me to read through and it- I have queried it before. I had some people that were interested, but it’s something where- you know, you have writers say, ‘this book is my baby’, and the other books, they are very important to me, but this one is my baby. So it’s been really hard to…let it go.

DM: Oh, I can completely understand that one. I mean, that was one of the depression issues I was having with The Foretelling Spark is because I’m like, it’s not bad, but it’s not my baby. It’s not the book I’m going to hold up as being the proudest of and say that I’m so glad I wrote this book. I mean, it was the first thing novel-length I was able to complete and I didn’t throw into something and set it afire, you know?

JS:  Well, and it was great. I mean, I saw, and again I know we aren’t super bffs but, just in speaking with you and, you know, looking at your Twitter and things that are important to you and how you view the world, there was a lot of you in it, but you could tell that there was, you had also taken that editorial eye to where you’re not just writing every thought that comes into your head. I see that so much in other writers, where there’s just not that filter; not to say that thoughts aren’t important, but every one doesn’t need to be written down.

 

We continued down this slight detour of discussion concerning my own novel, which James was kind enough to read and give some feedback on. There was much blushing and giddiness on my part from James’s praise and thoughtful critique of my work. But this interview is about the talented James, so back to topic!

DM: So, what would you say your publishing experience has been like so far?

JS: Uhhh….*heavy sigh* a whirlwind! I mean, as I said, Assimilation was picked up non-traditionally through a Twitter pitch on #SFFPit. And then Boy: A Journey was picked up through #Pitmad from Ninestar, so that was again, another non-traditional being picked up there. They also asked to then see any of my other LGBT work and that’s how they ended up publishing The Simplicity of Being Normal. They offered me based on that, and then, while all of this other stuff was going on I was still out there, still trying to find a literary agent, and I received an offer on my YA manuscript. And I sent out that standard notice of offer of rep and I was just beyond ecstatic that my dream agent actually offered me! So now I’m out of the querying, Twitter paryting scene.

DM: Ah! Wow! Congratulations!

JS: I’m super excited. It’s nice to not have to worry about that anymore, it’s just a relief. It’s also an honor to really be working with someone as talented and awesome as she is.

DM: Sounds like a good match, then. So, what would you say has been the most difficult part of the entire writing process? The writing, the editing, the querying, publishing, whatever part of it?

JS: I mean, querying is, as I’m sure you know, frustrating as hell, oh my god! So that was very difficult, but really, I mean, in just my personal experience, I feel like the publishing has been more difficult, but that really could be, it seems like every time I start the process of publishing there’s also something else going on. So, what ends up happening is that I end up procrastinating, and ultimately I feel super rushed and super stressed out about it. So even though querying is super frustrating, at least it was, okay, I send out this query, there’s nothing else I can do about it, and I let it go. But with publishing when there’s all the deadlines, it has to go through like eight different people, and I don’t want to be the hold-up, so the rush is very stressful, so I would could that the most difficult part.

DM: Do you have a favorite writing spot?

JS: It really depends on what I’m working on and how deep I need my concentration to be. When I’m at home I usually just write at the dining room table which is where I’m at right now. But if I really need a chunk of time and I need to focus I will go down to just a local coffee shop; it’s kind of hard to get distracted there, I don’t have kids running around and dogs running around. So it depends on what I’m working on.

DM: Makes sense. How do you balance your writing and the rest of life necessities?

JS: Oh god…uh…I wish that I really did have two other mes, that would be nice. Um, I mean it’s, I try to carve out writing times at night. I mean, I do have a full-time job that I’m very dedicated towards there, I’ve been a foster parent for a couple of years now, so caring for any children in the home is a hugs priority for me. So I usually write when everyone else is asleep! Luckily I have insomnia so I’m up all night.

DM: Ah, a tell-tale sign of a writer, too often. Too many of us anyway.

JS: That is true.

DM: What are some of your interests outside of writing?

JS: Um, well, my nine month old little guy. Nothing really brings me more joy than he does so he’s probably my main interest. I’m also really passionate about my full-time job, I’m part of a leadership team at a call center and I find that very rewarding. I have the opportunity to use a lot of my creativity, I design presentations, photoshop stuff, as well as mentoring other people. So, those are my main things.

DM: I know you’re a fan of Sci-fi, so for the record, do you have a favorite writing or reading genre?

JS: I actually, even though Assim is sci-fi, it actually shocked me because I don’t know that I’m a huge huge fan of sci-fi/fantasy. I really like, uh- like, I’m so excited to get my hands on whatever you’re working on that’s dystopian, so kind of like that soft sci-fi, because I’m very much character driven; that’s very important to me. Again, this is just my personal taste as a reader, sometimes with a lot of sci-fi or fantasy novels, the world building and descriptions and all that, I want to move and know what’s going on with these characters, that’s what grabs me. I more go for literary fiction. I really love books that have beautiful prose, which again one of your strengths! Really, I like things that have a purpose beyond just merely entertainment. I want to walk away being a little bit different. I’m not saying I like to read inspirational, and I don’t want to be ‘fundamentally changed’, but to walk away with even just a new idea, new perspective. So yeah, I really am more literary.

DM: That’s exactly why I fell in love with Assimilation and your characters in general because that is definitely one of your strengths. As I said in my reviews and before, you really know how to grab a reader with your characters and not let go.

JS: Thanks. That’s what I like to read, so.

DM: You definitely write it well, so I understand why you love to read it too. I definitely enjoy very character driven work. I mean, who else are you investing in?

JS: I definitely agree. I don’t know why, I’ve always found that, from a very young age, that I read a book because I want to be somewhere else, I want to walk in someone else’s shoes. But you know, the other thing that I think is very interesting to that too, and that I’ve tried to convey in my books, is that I don’t necessarily think that that person has to be super likeable; I really enjoy reading about characters that are flawed, that are deeply flawed because I think that’s so much more approachable. I can’t imagine myself being in the shoes of some saint, but people who are affected by their surroundings, who make very poor decisions, who can be very cruel, as cruel as they are kind, I feel like that’s part of what sucks me in as a reader, and so I try to convey that in my writing as well.

DM: I definitely say you do that quite well.

 

I mentioned that this was something I needed to work on in some ways with my own work; I have a problem understanding or having a character do something that could be considered mean or cruel without having a purpose or a deeper reason, and sometimes characters need to do those things, or have them happen to them.

We discussed my characters and the notes James made about my novel, which led to an interesting and important thing to consider while writing certain characters.

JS: What it reminds me of is the book I’m working on with my agent right now. It has a main character that…he’s an asshole. A major, major asshole that keeps everybody at arms’ length, and that’s a problem because, even though there’s a reason why he is an asshole, and there’s a reason that he keeps everyone at arms’ length, keeping the reader at arms’ length, it was then a struggle for the reader to connect with him. It’s been something that I’ve had to go back through and think about, okay, I know why he’s doing this, I know why he is just very standoffish, and why he is the way he is, but we’re in his head. So, he can be that way to the world around him, but not to the reader.

 

He then related this back to my own novel and how it is something to take into consideration. It was helpful and great to discuss these issues so that I can attend to them, not only in revisions for The Foretelling Spark, but something to take into future projects as well.

Then I turned our conversation back to James.

DM: Okay, we kind of talked about this before, so just to clarify, what is your favorite book that you’ve written? Is that The Child Catcher, or another?

JS: No, it really is. I love all of my books and there’s, you know, a message behind all of them and a reason why I wrote them. I did go into some depth with Child Catcher and why that one is really the favorite book, the most personal. However, a close second would really be Boy: A Journey. I wrote that, even though I did write that a lot for the transgender community, the portions of it with Tom’s death were very difficult for me to write because I dedicated the book and wrote it with my grandmother in mind. That was something that, a lot of what happens there at the end when he actually does pass, that was very personal to me in that I was, that I went through similar situation and so I would say, after Child Catcher, Boy: A Journey is very very personal to me because it was me saying goodbye to her all over again so, reliving that.

 

After a moment of sharing condolences and brief discussion about writing and encapsulating the loss of a loved one, we turned to slightly fuzzier topics.

DM: So, I know you mentioned your pugs so, I’m going to ask you to tell me about any writing helper/minions or furry distractions you have, if you don’t mind.

JS: I do have the pugs, and like I said, I also have a nine-month old little boy. He used to be in the ‘help’ category when he was smaller. I actually edited Boy: A Journey standing up at the drafting table with him like, in a snuggie on my chest. But now he just wants to be into everything including the laptop so, he now falls into that cute yet distracting bucket. That’s also kid of where the pugs are usually, they like to pile around me when I write on the couch. In most of my profile pictures is my senior girl, Binky. I look better when I have a pug. So those are the minions, distractions, ‘helpers.’

DM: How would you say your writing community has affected you?

JS: Oh I mean, tremendously. Besides that I wouldn’t have published anything or really found literary rep without Twitter, like I said, I went the traditional querying route and it didn’t really get me much of anywhere. But I’ve also met awesome people like yourself, sharing best practices, and it helps to make me a better writer, honestly. I’ve met some really great friends, again yourself included. I’d also like to think that I’ve helped a lot of people too, or I’ve tried to. If I could give a small shout out to Elizabeth Hamill,who has an awesome LGBT sci-fi that’s releasing in July, and J.M Sullivan who just published Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles on May 16th, they just, they rock. I love Beta Reading for them and helping them, or I like to think I helped them. They were awesome without me, but maybe I helped just a little bit. If nothing else, just the self-esteem boost of telling them that they’re awesome, sometimes that really helps, in a sea of rejections.

DM Definitely! And how would you say you found or created your writing community? Did you just get on Twitter, start tweeting and find some people, or was there something else along the way?

JS: My wife actually was doing it first. She’s also a YA author and she was just very much into it for a time and was telling me all about these Twitter parties and everything. At first I thought it was just crap and then I finished my books and considered giving it a whirl. I really started doing it a lot because of her and the Twitter parties and everything, just participating in that, I had the opportunity to be a slush reader at #70pits last year where I’ve met a lot of super awesome people to connect with.

DM: For writing tools, do you have a preference for Word, Scrivener, old-fashioned handwriting?

JS: I like just, Microsoft Word. Sometimes I will get an idea, usually it’s dialogue, like dialogue will pop into my head at 2 in the morning (I’m sure you understand), and I have to, you know, turn over and write it in my notebook by my bedside but, normally I do like Microsoft Word because like you, I do agonize over word choice and structures and I can’t imagine doing it hand written because I would be be crossing things out, whiting things out. I like being able to type out a sentence and then switch it around fifty different ways.

DM: Which author drink stereotype would you say is your biggest vice, if at all, coffee, tea, or alcohol?

JS: Coffee all day and wine all night. Lots of coffee, and I like wine. There’s a lot of good wineries around here I frequent. I’m not a drunk, but I do enjoy a glass of wine while I write.

DM: So I know I asked you about the most difficult part of the entire process, but what would you say is the most difficult part of novel writing for you?

JS: I’m really crap at beginnings. I really am crap at beginnings. You’ve read things so far where I’ve edited and edited the beginning and believe me, everything you’ve read, that’s not where it originally started. And I’m still, I’m…happy with how they start now, but I always have to redo beginnings. I feel like in everything it doesn’t really start to get good until 15-20 pages in, and that’s not good. So beginnings, I really struggle with. I don’t know why.

DM: Okay, I promise we’re nearly done! So, The Simplicity of Being Normal is your most recent release, is there anything you can tell us about it?

JS: Sure. It’s more similar to Boy: A Journey than it is to Assimilation. It is told from three different points of view like the other two novels are, and of course it has LGBT elements in it. It follows the story of an underage transgender young man as he is living in a very conservative community and there’s a lot of bullying and abuse that is going on at school. He does find allies in a couple of teachers at the school but just how he navigates and of course, because we’re in three different perspectives the other two main characters, the teachers, they also do have some secrets that they’re hiding and struggles they’re going through as well.

DM: Well, I really can’t wait to read more. I’m only a few pages in and already, just oh, Sam!

JS: It’s a struggle. Again, I wrote Boy to show that there doesn’t have to be that sensationalism and that is also what I hope comes across with Sam; that this is just a young man who wants to be seen as normal. He’s not out there hurting anybody, like he’s not out there doing drugs, or anything like that, he just really wants to be normal, and people are just fighting him the entire way. That’s what a lot of young transgender people go through.  Especially in communities like he’s in where they don’t have the support, they [lack] the ability to receive treatment so they’re kind of just stuck in limbo until they hit 18.

DM: Which by then is just…the difference between being able to start before puberty hits, to be able to, it just…how is that so hard to understand?

JS: It’s incredible. And besides the fact that the changes to the body are just so much more effective the younger that you start. I mean the teenagers, we all know it, cisgender, transgender, what may have you, those are building blocks to the person you’re going to be and spending those formative years constantly fighting who you are, being so depressed, so anxious, hating yourself, that is so destructive to a persons’ self-esteem, self-confidence. I’m very excited to see your thoughts, but I would imagine that even though Sam is going to be feeling those things, even after transitioned for years to come as many transgender individuals do so, the earlier that you’re able to start getting treatments, it’s just so much better on many levels. So I hope you enjoy it.

DM: As I said, I definitely cannot wait to sink in further. Okay, the last question I have is, what is your next novel coming up and what can you tell us about it?

JS: The next novel is the one that I’m working on with my literary agent. It’s a contemporary YA, so I would imagine that’s going to be the next one to come out, unless everyone hates it and I have to work on something else. I would say that it’s kind of like a YA twist on Fight Club. It follows a young man with medically induced dissociative identity disorder and he’s basically fighting to maintain control of the shared body. So it’s kind of like YA Fight Club if you were rooting for Tyler Durden. It’s pretty gritty, reads kind of similar to The Gospel of Winter, so it’s not like a super deviation from my other work in the literary realm, but it’s also not told from multiple points of view, unlike the other novels. So that’s what’s next.

 

From there our conversation turned to my own work, once again. We discussed a WIP of mine that’s I’ve been slowly piecing together over this past year or so, and it was a wonderful and lively conversation. I enjoyed myself immensely.

I highly recommend you snag yourself one of James Stryker’s fantastic books. I will besimplicity of being normal finishing up The Simplicity of Being Normal, and you can expect a review to come after. I will also be eagerly waiting for more stirrings about his novels to come.

Another huge thank you James for his time and doing this interview with me, and of course, for his thoughts, criticisms and praise of my own work and willingness to share his thoughts. Thank you, James!

You can find James on Twitter, or through his site.

Things to Remember When Your NaNo Won’t WriMo

It’s almost here, the end of NaNoWriMo is within sight at a week away. The ability to officially count your 50K+ is now available; collective breaths are on the verge of being released after a month’s flurry of work…

Unlike last year, I am not certain of a NaNoWriMo Official 50K victory by November 30th. In fact, as you can see…

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…I am still working on hitting the 1500 word mark…

To state the obvious, progress has been slow. For a while (to be read as still trying not to), I beat myself up about not keeping to my goals and finishing another book this year. As is typical for me, I began going all over of the things I hadn’t managed to do this year as it comes to a screeching close; berating myself as only I know how, for all the ways in which I was behind….

Then I reminded myself of a few things….yes, even I need to be reminded of the fact that I live with chronic illnesses . I hold myself to standards that would be difficult even if I was in perfect health and put my all into every moment, let alone with what my day to day living is with spoon math, migraines, chronic pain, and brain fog.

Next, I reminded myself of the fact that I’ve been on and off different medications this year that have really affected me, one of which I’m only just now off, but will take time to work its way completely out of my system. It’s messing with my ability to concentrate and thus to work, often making me feel dizzy (ah the joys of withdrawing from prescribed medication…)

I also had to remind myself of my emotional state, and the fact that it’s fair to take that into account. PTSD can be a tiring battle with moments of quiet followed by a bombardment of symptoms and demons. The upsurge in symptoms recently has a handful of causes, all of which contribute to issues with my health, because it’s a joyous circle.

Then…there is all that came with the election…but I don’t want to turn this into something political, but needless to say, as have countless others, I’ve been deeply affected by it, and I’m petrified…

So, finally (again to be read as still attempting), I decided to give myself a pass.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t given up. It may be incremental amounts, but I’ve slowly been adding to my novel Not That Kind of Unicorn. Who knows what may happen between now and next week? Or now and the end of the year?

But for those like me that hold themselves to outrageous standards, here are some things to remember:

  1. By starting, by even attempting, you’ve gained something– I know, it sounds corny, and in my more cynical moments, I don’t believe either, but it’s true. If you’ve put any amount of planning into it, you’ve made progress; if you’ve just added a few words, you’ve made progress; if you’ve advanced an idea related to your novel or one of the characters in it, you’ve made progress, and you deserve to celebrate too.
  2. You can always keep going after NaNoWriMo– nothing says you have to stop. In fact, after some rest and celebration, there’s encouragement to dive back in. Ask your new (or old) NaNoWriMo friends for some inspiration and motivation to keep you going, even after November is gone.
  3. Regroup for Camp NaNoWriMo– if the group challenge and idea of writers attempting the same goal en masse helps you to write, then don’t wait for November next year when you can join Camp NaNoWriMo for April or July. Use what you’ve gotten from now and start again after some time away.
  4. You’re not doing yourself any favors by pressuring yourself into oblivion- I doubt I’m the only one that does this, adds the pressure and the need to finish something I’ve started on so heavily that I suffocate myself, often the point of being unable to get things done. (Admittedly, a lot of this for me personally comes from trauma related lack of self-worth, but that’s a different story). But pressing your nose to the grindstone that hard is more likely to result in a broken nose (and in my case glasses), and probably a few nasty scrapes than it is to bring about a novel. You aren’t going to accomplish anything by putting too much pressure on yourself. Life happens; it sucks, sincerely, when we’re thrown off course, but it’s good to know when to give yourself a break.

My plan from here is to keep going, even as I move on to other projects, or return to old ones. I always seem to be needing to regroup, since I want to finish EVERYTHING at once the moment I start, which creates an interesting amalgamation of chaos.

I will do my best to enjoy the holiday upon us tomorrow (Happy Thanksgiving!), I will leave some art on Black Friday to Flood the Streets with Art ; I will soak up some book and movie goodness, start my Christmas baking after this weekend, and otherwise refuel and write/art on. Which is all you really can do.

What about you? How is NaNoWriMo going for you?

nanowrimo-word-count

 

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An Interview with the Horrifically Wonderful Jette Harris

I’ve said it before but it deserves to be said again, I never thought I would be thankful for Twitter and being part of the Twitterverse, and yet I am. I’ve met some really wonderful people through Twitter…and my TBR list has never been longer. One of the best parts about Twitter is getting a chance to connect with authors as they get published and continue on their own writing journey. As long as people are willing to put in the time and effort to connect instead of sell, it’s a wonderful thing.

I’ve now been on Twitter for over a year (I can still hardly believe it), and I’ve met a variety of interesting people, many of which are fellow authors. I’ve had the pleasure of reading some, talking with many and even interviewing a few. I’ve chatted with and interviewed traditionally published Susan Crawford, as well as Jewel Leonard about her self-publishing experience.

Today, I’d like to introduce another wonderful Twitter-found author friend and share an interview I did with her about her own unique publishing journey. Without further ado, Jette Harris! (Please keep in mind that since we are discussing her books, some of the content discussed may be triggering to some people; her books come with a trigger warning)

Jette Harris.jpg

DM: So, your first book was Colossus, right?

JH: Well, my first published novel is Colossus. I wrote one other novel which was, I mean… I thought it was good, and then I thought it was bad, and now I’m realizing it’s unrevised. So, it could be good, I just haven’t touched it since 2006…so that’s sitting in a drawer….

DM: Is that kind of in the same genre or in a completely different genre?

JH: They’re…kind of the same genre…it involves a serial killer, but it’s more like a romance thriller

DM: Your idea for Colossus, what’s the first thing you remember getting for an idea, or where the idea came from?

JH: So what happened was…and this is kind of embarrassing in hindsight, but, I was watching HBO’s Rome, and the guy that plays Mark Anthony is James Purefoy. He seemed unremarkable beyond his character up to the point where, (if you’re not familiar with Rome it shows the rise Julius Caesar and Augustus)…so, up to the point where Julius Caesar dies at the end of the first season, I didn’t really think anything special about him. And then, when you see him discover that Julius Caesar has been assassinated, he gets this facial expression, which I thought was absolutely remarkable for an actor; it showed a real depth of talent, and I was just like, you know what, I’m going to take him, and I’m going to write a character for him.

I also had this really crazy dream where I was listening to Kesha sing “I Only Want to Dance With You” while a man, who is not Avery Rhodes, or James Purefoy or anything like that, was raping a teenage boy…

DM:…that…is definitely an interesting dream….

JH: Yeah….so, I combined all of those concepts and came up with a…at the time I wanted to work on short stories, I didn’t want to write a novel. I was going to write a series of short stories of a girl, Heather Stokes, fleeing this man who, at first he was just cold and calculating, unfeeling…he was just flat, a very flat character. As I wrote the story, or as I was writing the first few stories, I realized I needed to write an inciting incident, and so I started writing the inciting incident and it just kind of grew out of control.

DM: Gotcha. Bit of a snowball effect there.

JH: Yes. And so it turned from a series of about seven short stories, to a series of about seven novels. And then I also gave Avery Rhodes his own set of novellas of growing up and how he became the…I don’t want to say “monster” because he’s very much a human, but the serial killer you meet in Colossus.

DM: And that’s the Phoenix Rising and….

JH: Yes. There are two of those out right, and I have two more of those in revisions.

DM: Are you planning to put those out by next year or by later this year?

JH: I don’t know what I’m planning on doing. I’m just kind of at that point where I’m debating whether I want to keep tackling the Colossus novels and the Phoenix Rising novellas, or whether I want to set those on a back burner and come back to them at some future date.

DM: How long do you think it took you to write Colossus?

JH: So to write it…I would say it took a year and then a month to write and then revise Colossus… it was about late September-mid October that I came up with the idea for it, and then about April or May I thought I was completely done and I sent it to an editor. He had a lot of awesome suggestions and so I revised it, but at the same time I was writing material for Two Guns, which is the second book. I was also writing material for the Phoenix Rising novellas; I was also writing material for the other books that would follow Colossus and Two Guns, to get that series finished up. So I was working on a lot at the same time. So now I have chunks of several different novels in the same universe and all of these novellas. So it took a little over a year of inconsistent writing and revising.

DM: When you went to publish it, what route did you take originally for that? I know recently I saw that you had pulled it from where you had it but I wasn’t quite sure…..

JH: Yes, and, I haven’t really pulled it, which is a technicality….so, what happened was, in the summer of last year, I started talking to @EllaThomas22, which is a Twitter character account for Ella, who is a Stephen Moran character. Stephen had formed his own publishing company in order to publish his own novel, and he was also hoping to get other authors.

Ella is about a female serial character, it’s very savage. It’s a bit more…I don’t want to say gangster, but it’s a bit more money oriented than I like my thrillers to be, but the characters meshed very well. So, he asked me if I would make Colossus his first non-self-published book, and I thought that was pretty cool. He mentored me through the process, so basically what happened was that when I published it, I published it with his name on it, but at the same time it was self-published. So, publishing it under him was a technicality, but he’s also on my ISBN. When I decided that I wanted to shop Colossus for traditional publication for a wider release, because his company is very small, he has very small reach right now, and I wanted…more, so when I decided I wanted more, I pulled his name off of everything, but his name is still on my ISBN. So, I haven’t gotten myself a new ISBN yet, so I just kind of half-assed pulled it from them.

DM: So, you said you were going to try for traditional publishing for Colossus?

JH: Yes. I’ve been querying and I haven’t gotten any replies back, and for some of those it’s to the point they’re just not going to reply because they’re not interested….querying is hard hard pout face.gif

DM: Yes, yes it is, oh my gosh….

JH: Yeah, so if you’ve read Colossus and are familiar with it, it’s not surprising that most people I pass it to will pass on it…

DM: Yeah, it’s for a selective audience.

So, I think we kind of touched this, how many books have you written and published?

JH: I’ve written three. I wrote Perfect Words in college, and it’s about 53K. Then I wrote Colossus and that got published. Now, I’m actually very worried that I published it prematurely before getting more critical reviews on it, but….I had a lot of beta readers….all of the critical feedback I got I acknowledged, I adjusted most of it.

Now, I got a one star review and a two star review on Goodreads and, it just kind of knocked me backwards. It was stuff that my beta readers didn’t really mention, or didn’t have a problem with so, I’m kind of concerned now that I published Colossus too soon and didn’t let it sit long enough…but oh well..

And then I wrote Two Guns which is the follow up to Colossus, it’s the second book in the series. Two Guns is done, but it just doesn’t feel…right, and this was before I read the reviews, so that’s not what’s holding me back. It just feels like right now there’s too much going on and it’s too disconnected and so I’m thinking about just rewriting that. I’m going to keep most of the material in it and I’m just going to rewrite it in a uniform fashion so it’s smoother. But that’s going to be really time consuming.

Then earlier, for Camp NaNo I wrote a romance. It was a historical romance. It was based in 1800’s South Carolina and, I almost got to the very end, and then that last scene, I just couldn’t get it out. And I just let it peter it, so I have this almost finished romance novel that I’m going to revise. That one I might shop around because it’s more marketable.

DM: So, what do you have to say about your publishing experience so far?

JH: ……uh….fuck…..

DM:  Can I quote you on that?

JH: …I think I was impatient and I may have killed my opportunity to get Colossus traditionally published by publishing with Moran (which would have happened completely self-publishing as well). Then also, publishing with Moran prevented me from entering in any of the contests and competitions for self-published authors. So…I just think I was impatient, and if I had to do it all over again, I would probably shop a lot more agents and publishers before going and self-publishing.

DM: Would you say that the genre of Colossus is your favorite genre to write in?

JH: Yes. Yes, I would say….there’s debate among my readers and internally, in myself, whether or not to consider this a psychological thriller or a horror; because horror, and I read a really awesome article about this, about how horror is more about a monster or a horrifying being, and that’s very much true, but you also have the thriller aspect of everyone’s psychological descent as it were, not just the victims, but also the antagonist. I really do love being thrilled. I love reading something that gives me palpitations. Even though I’m not always happy about it, I always love that sensation.

DM: Is that your favorite reading genre as well, then?

JH:….so I have a confession, that I’m trying to break myself of, that I don’t read all that much…

DM: Really?

JH: Because, I devoted most of time to writing, and so I was writing mostly and I was just like “I don’t have time to read because I want to do nothing but write.” I was using writing to manage anxiety and so I’m not as anxious now as I usually am, so I’ve been slowly getting myself back into reading. I have a…. small…. TBR pile and it’s almost exclusively Joe Lansdale novels because they’re very easy to read and they’re hilarious, and they’re thrilling. They give me that fast heart-beat feeling, and so that’s kind of my stepping-stone back into learning how to carve out time for reading.

DM: Do you have a favorite writing spot?

JH: My desk at work. I actually wrote a blog entry, back when I first started writing Colossus, over two years ago, and I was talking about how, for the previous three or four years I had been wanting and trying to write and I just couldn’t sink my teeth into it. And it wasn’t until I got to the point where I was sitting in the same spot every single day for an extended amount of time, because I got a desk job that I finally got to the point where I could just sit down and write. I’m a customer service analyst for a software company that creates reading assessments, and so our customer basis consists of teachers and principals, and support staff, things like that, so we’re busy when they’re busy; we’re not busy when they’re not testing so, I have several hours of downtime a day at times, and I try to fill that with writing. So it took me a long time to get to where I could not just sit and write, but also to take writing anywhere else. Now, it’s a lot easier, especially if I’m in the middle of a story, I can take it anywhere, and I can write anywhere. But, if I were to start a story, or if I don’t really feel like starting or working on a story, even if I know I should, it’s a chore, but it’s easier now than it was previously.

DM: Are you working on anything in particular right now?

JH: Right now, I want to say no…but really, I should be. So, I also offer editing services, and I’m working on a medical thriller and a romance, or adult contemporary, for two different customers right now (people we know and love). When I’m done with that, if I have time between when I finish those and November, I’m going to pick a few more revisions for Two Guns, and then in November I’m going to write the third book in the Heather Stokes series.  Should be very emotionally taxing.

DM: Load up the funny movies, you know, have the Christmas fudge waiting…

JH: Yeah! The Hallmark channel will be doing their Christmas movies! Could totally do that!

DM: Can you tell me a bit more about the Colossus series?

JH: Two Guns was really fun to write. Two Guns is really funny. Basically it’s Rhodes meddling in the investigation. Colossus all occurs inside the house, it’s all very isolated, you have no idea, unless Rhodes implies something, what’s going on outside the house. In Two Guns, you don’t go inside the house. It’s concurrent, and it’s entirely outside of the house. It’s what’s going on with the families, and police, FBI, and Rhodes is having a field day among them and just kind of….fucking shit up.

The third book is the few weeks that follow Colossus and Two Guns, they basically end in the same place. The third book is called Ruin, which is kind of like a play off the archaic sense of a woman being ruined.

DM: Do you have any writing helpers/minions/or other furry distractions?

JH: Furry distractions. I have a cat and a dog and my dog is probably very upset he’s not in here under the covers right now. I used to have four snakes because they were all wild caught and we’re about to move out of state and it would be very, very illegal to take them out of state, especially seeing as one of them was venomous.

My dog is very distracting. He’ll sit at my feet and he’ll whine and whine and whine until I pick him up or have him sit in my lap. It’s annoying as hell. He’s a Velcro dog, he’s not comfortable being away from me.

DM: D’aww, poor puppy face.

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JH: He’s a spoiled little poopersnoot.

*temporary break and gushing about furry related cuteness*

DM: So, do you happen to have a favorite book?

JH: I have two. They’re very different, and for very different reasons. Richard Adams’s Watership Down, it’s just…I don’t even know how to describe it. I was young when I first read it, fourth or fifth grade, and so I didn’t really get the depth, but I did get the adventure and the character variety, it was amazing. I love them all, and my favorite will always be Dandelion because he was the story teller. I just, I used to read it every year, I haven’t done it a lot recently. I’ve read it maybe twice in the last six years, but every time I read it feels new and different and, I just love it very much.

My other one is Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic which I read for the first time in the eighth grade. It’s the reason I go by Jette; one of the aunts, her name is Bridget and she went by Jet, and my name is Bridgette. So between eighth and ninth grade I decided I would go by Jette, because I was sick of everyone calling me Bridge, I hated it. It was just so strange to read something where you combine this suburban house-wife kind of thing, kind of very normal family, and then there’s magic. You don’t really know if it’s really magic, but you get a sense that there’s something behind the shadows, and things happen and they can’t possibly be coincidence. It was so amazing to read that, and that was my introducing to, I think it’s called magical realism. It was just amazing how she describes things. Her descriptions are amazing. Her use of hyperbole and her description of things that, you know, otherwise would be normal is just phenomenal. Like, a guy who’s I love is leaning on a counter top, and he’s so in love, he’s so heated and hot for this person that linoleum begins to bubble…it’s just…ridiculous, and I love it.

DM: I can definitely get behind you with that….So, do you have a favorite book that you’ve written?

JH: ….that I’ve written or that I’ve published?

DM…either? Both? Since apparently they’re different?

JH: I think….my favorite thing is going to be the next Phoenix Rising novella. And if I had to choose one that I’ve already written and published…oh god…between the three that I’ve published….I…that’s a real challenge….I think it would have to be…it’s between the Phoenix Rising novellas. I don’t know if I like Salvage more or if I like Flint Ranch more….

DM: It’s okay, I won’t make you choose, haha.

JH: Okay, so, the Phoenix Rising novellas. I think the next one is going to be my absolute favorite because…I just love Thatch’s dad, Wren. He’s so cool, and he’s like so clueless. He has no idea how to raise a kid, but he’s a good man. And so, there was hope there for Thatch being a good man…and then there’s not, and that’s where I will leave that…

DM: How would you say that your writing community has affected you?

JH: I’ve finished a book. I’ve published a book. I’ve finished novellas, I’ve published novellas. I’ve almost finished Sweet Nothings, which is the romance, and they just keep me going, they keep me propped up. They taught me the importance of revisions and the importance of an editor. I would not have finished a book at all if it weren’t for Twitter, which seems like a ridiculous thing to say to somebody who isn’t familiar with the community. They just…that’s where I found my editor, that’s where I found my publisher, it’s where I found almost all of my beta readers.

DM: I was definitely surprised at the community I found on Twitter. I never wanted to be on it, ever.

So, for writing tools, do you have a preference for Word, Scrivener, old fashioned hand writing?

JH: Old-fashioned hand writing. If I had to choose one to live with for the rest of my life, it would be old-fashioned hand writing, as much as my hand hates it. I tried Scrivener for a couple of days and I liked the tools but I felt like…you have to use it for a while to get the most out of it and I wasn’t willing to take the time, to invest my time in it.

So what I do is I write out a scene for as long as I can write, or as long as I have an idea bubbling, and I’ll write it out in pen and paper. Then I will transcribe it either right after I’m done writing it or when I’m typing everything up into Word. I’ve recently become very familiar with Word. I learned how to track changes and make notes and that’s awesome. And that’s really helping my editing as well.

That’s basically what I do, write with pen and paper and then I transcribe. As I transcribe I’m revising and editing. I’ll make little changes, catch where something sounds unnatural. Because writing, typing, and speaking, they all use different pathways in the brain, so even if you’re conveying the same idea, it would come out different depending on what tool you’re using; it’s good to use as many different pathways as you can.

DM: Which author drink stereotype is your biggest vice: coffee, tea, or alcohol?

JH: …um….I hate coffee but I drink it…uh….so, coffee and alcohol, even though I’m not the write drunk, edit sober kind of person, I like to have a cider with my evening writing….I’m very much a soda person actually, I prefer Pepsi or Mountain Dew.

DM: What’s the, or one of the most difficult parts of novel writing for you?

JH: There are two. One is getting started with revisions. After you know what you want to revise and what needs to be done, then it’s really meditative almost, like you’re whittling a statue into shape, or smoothing stone or something like that. But getting to the place where you know what needs to be done is so difficult. That’s where I am with Two Guns, where I’ve revised and I’ve revised it. I’ve cut stuff out and added stuff to it, and it still feels…wrong. And I have people telling me it’s perfect and it’s exactly where it needs to be, but I’m just like no, it just feels wrong. So I’m just going to rewrite it and not worry about that.

The second part is knowing when you’re done. With Colossus, I revised it and I added to it, and I revised those, and then I was chipping away. And my then publisher thought it was ready, it was in publishable condition now, and I agree, I thought it was too, and I think it is, it’s just, there are still flaws in it that I didn’t smooth out.

 

It was a pleasure to interview Jette Harris, she’s a wonderful person and always willing to be there with a kind word. If you’re interested in finding out more about Jette’s works, visit her website here, or  take a look at one of her books!

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salvage.jpg  flint ranch.jpg

 

Three Important Things No Writer Should be Without

Almost no matter what, there are three things I keep with me wherever I go. As an individual, these things have served me well, but as a writer, they’ve been instrumental, which leads me to the conclusion that these are three things no writer should ever be without:

  1. Notebook and Pen (I know, you could argue that would make it four things, but let’s v8a98c0u96just assume the one comes with the other).

    You never want to be without paper and pen (or similar writing utensil and adequate material to write on), particularly as a writer. You know those sensational ideas you have that you swear you’ll remember in five, ten,  twenty minutes, tomorrow morning, in a couple of days?…LIES!!

    Don’t listen to yourself! We all know that if you actually remembered it that it’s some trick of the universe and not an event often repeated. More often than not, you’re left scrabbling for tendrils of an idea you vainly wish you’d had written down…One great way to avoid ever having the conversation where you lie to yourself with complete intention to remember those incredibly evasive and brilliant ideas, is to always have this tool at hand. I’ve scrawled so many ideas in little notebooks that I carry with me that I often have to collect them all in my Ideas Jot List in spurts.

    You can also write if you have a few spare moments. Perhaps a person, a sound, or a smell triggers a line of dialogue or narration, a scene you’ve been working on at home suddenly rushes to you while sitting in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. Having a pen and paper handy can be a huge help, plus, you may not have a napkin nearby to use, best to be safe and bring some supplies with you, it’s only the basics after all.

    Plus, it’s exceedingly handy to have pen and paper at hand. It’s great for writing down messages, stray thoughts, numbers, etc. from phone calls you’ve gotten.  I often use mine for lists. I love lists. They’re a great way to organize your thoughts, for spit balling ideas or just getting your thoughts going.

    Really, you can’t go wrong having a small notebook and a trusty pencil or pen ready to receive whatever words you have to give whenever you have a moment. Take them with you everywhere you can, or use your phone if that’s your thing (personally I prefer a small spiral notebook and my favorite brand of pen.) Leave a notebook and pen on your nightstand to record your dreams, last thoughts for the night, or first thoughts of the morning. Whatever you end up using your notebook and pen for, you’ll be glad for having it.

 

  1. A Book– While it’s very true that this decision may in part be influenced by the fact that I am a bibliophile and a bookworm, I promise it’s also a great idea for writers….or anyone that loves books. Now, I’m sure this has become more common purely by advent of the Kindle App on most phones; at least a scattering of people you see out and mesmerized by their phones may actually be reading a novel…I can hope, right?

    Like Stephen King says:
    stephen-king-quote-books-and-dead-spots-in-life

    I am one of those people that brings a book for these situations, or any situation. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t bust out a book at the family dinner table when politics takes the holiday dinner chat over, no matter how much I might want to (even though I have a book handy…just in case).

    You never know what’s going to happen in life, and more than once in the past I’ve found myself infinitely grateful for having a book on hand when I wasn’t necessarily expecting to have the time. Even if it’s only a couple of sentences, or a paragraph here and there, it can be wonderful to slip into another time, place, person, for a moment. Or, if you’re reading nonfiction, there’s plenty to absorb and think over if the-magic-of-books-155683you read in these dead space moments

    They say if you can’t write, read. If you’re reading what you love and enjoy, you’ll find inspiration, perhaps when you least expect it. Or read something you don’t like and then be sure you shape your writing voice to avoid what it is you dislike. Either way, you are doing research, so even if you’re reading, you’re working!! (…I can neither confirm nor deny ever using this statement to justify reading when I should/could be writing…)

 

  1. An Open Mind– An open mind is something everyone should keep with them, but since you can’t have everything, I strongly urge every writer to never misplace this vital tool.
    open-mind
    Creativity is an amazing thing and you cannot always control the places it and Inspiration will take you, but with an open mind, those places are far more numerous. There are multiple studies showing a connection between higher levels of empathy in those that read fiction. This makes complete sense if you think about it; what are you doing when you read? Becoming another person, perhaps another species all together, and connecting with the struggles, challenges, and triumphs of the character, a character that the reader becomes, through empathy.

    Why am I talking about empathy when I started off with having an open mind? Here’s the thing, not many closed minded people are able to empathize with others, at least not very well. This is of course because they are unwilling or unable to open themselves to possibilities other than their own thoughts, feelings, or ideas.

    Open mindedness will lead you to far more interesting and fantastical places than a closed mind ever could. You must keep this with you always. As writers, we often use what’s around us as inspiration, sometimes a part of a conversation, or the way someone dresses sparks a character, but with an open mind, you can take a good idea and make it something grander than you first imagined.

    An open mind will serve you well, but if you’re a writer, don’t leave home without it.

What are some tools that you keep with you in your writer’s tool belt?

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Preparing for NaNoWriMo: How to be a Plantser

It’s almost here. In a matter of days, the one month countdown until NaNoWriMo begins….there are generally two basic strategies used to tackle writing 50,000 words in 30 days, being a planner/plotter or a pantser.nanowrimo

As the names suggest, a planner spends time plotting out and planning to write their novel; this often includes research, flushing out characters, testing out plot points, and more. Pantsers, on the other hand, fly by the seat of their pants, going in with minimal to no planning on November 1st, perhaps only the a stray idea they plan to turn into a novel.

As mentioned in this post from last year, my first attempt at NaNoWriMo was very much attempted as a pantser. I went in with a vague description of a character and pieced together a direction to go during the first week. It was incredibly difficult for me. I spent so much of my time trying to figure out the other characters I needed to form and write into the story, as well as creating setting and a plot to follow as I went, that it was maddening trying to write a story that I would want to read.

It was obvious that being a full on pantser did not work for me.

The next time I gave NaNoWriMo a real chance, which I count as last year, I found what approach works best for me; the plantser approach, or the planner/pantser combination.

What does it mean to be a plantser?

Well, it could take any form that works for you, but generally it uses both approaches, and I plan to use it again this year; which is why October is a month of planning and preparing.

In my opinion, the best thing about being a plantser is the fact that I have more of a foundation going into my WIP, which means it’s a lot easier to make things happen in the story. With that in mind, there’s no reason at all not to go off in another direction, if it suits the story, and factor that in as you move forward.

Essentially, that’s why a combination works best for me, and many others, because it’s also individualized. You can do as much or as little preparation as you wish, becoming only as detailed as suits you. For instance, I had copious amounts of jots and notes about various characters, or facts about the novel, some of which didn’t necessarily need to be included in the novel, but helped in the writing of it.

It works best when you know what details you need to weave the story together while you’re writing it, and get those down during the planning period.

The best details to plan include:

  • Character details and descriptions- birthdays, graduation dates, degrees, school names, family names, nick names, relevant history that makes them who they are in the novel, their motivations, etc.
  • Setting details- major settings (or at least one) might be good to establish, especially if dealing in fantasy or other worlds that need more context and description; perhaps you need to research real places first and make specific references to make the setting come to life, etc.
  • Some major and sub plot points- making a note of major things that need to happen throughout your novel is a good idea, it helps you link your beginning and end, and it can help you from getting too stuck in the middle; noting subplot points you want to weave in are also good to note, and you can always change or add as you write
  • Essentials timeline- this becomes more important dependent depending on the kind of novel you’re writing and how many things need to happen in particular order, but a timeline of big happenings or significant dates to characters can save a lot of time later, both in writing and in revising

I personally found these helpful last year and helped me keep to my word count a lot easier since there was less time scrambling for important details. Instead, all I had to do was scan my notes and I was off again. If I decided to make a change, I could easily enough by looking at my notes and doing so.

I definitely strayed from the plot points I originally wrote in October, adding, switching, and altering as needed along the way. For instance, I noted a plot point as simply “vibes and feelings” in relation to another character and just saying “next vision,” leaving the details to come to me in the moment or to be thought on until that time.

In the end, everyone finds what works for them, falling in and out of their stride and, as long as they don’t give up, find themselves winners of NaNoWriMo and novel writers. You do what works for you, and for me, it’s a combination approach. Having a flexible plan is usually what works best for me.

What about you? What’s your style?

You Might Also Like:
Some Resources and Things to Remember About NaNoWriMo
A Novel Update and How to Get from Here to Published
My First Writing Workshop and Pitch: What You Need to Know

Sensational Music to Make You Write: Part Three

It’s been incredibly odd not posting the last couple of weeks, and at the same time I feel like I could use a few more, I’m still recovering from my move and settling in to my new place. Whether you may or may not be aware, July happens to be a Camp NaNoWriMo month, practice for the big NaNoWriMo of November. I mention this because of the call for music I’ve seen among a few Twitter people’s I enjoy following, so now seems a great time to share some more music to inspire your writing. So, without further ado:

UCD Choir- Mo Ghille Mer

Songs like this make the Irish part of my heart throb. When I listen to this song, I often get goosebumps as I close my eyes and get lost in the beauty. The scenes that come to mind while listening to it changes, but the strongest involve woods with sunlight streaming through trees, green hills with determined and heartened characters making their way across them; perhaps the search for something lost prompts an unexpected journey.

Erutan- Transylvanian Lullaby

Where to start with my love of Erutan’s work? She’s absolutely sensational, her skill and talent are on display in this beautiful music. Setting aside the amazing fact that she arranged and performed each part of it herself, the music and voice are enchanting. It’s a lullaby for a reason, but that doesn’t mean it’s not ripe with ideas to pluck like the strings of instrument or heart.

Jeff Beal- Next Line (from House of Cards)

Whether you listen to this song without having seen it in context of the show it’s from, or not, there’s no denying the intensity creeping through the music and voice. The way the music grows, the ethereal voice surging through the background, has followed me into my dreams and waking thoughts. There’s triumph as well as suspicion lacing through the notes that seems to put me in mind of capes whipping through the woods, leaving behind or surging towards something.

Zardnonic & Voicians- Bring Back the Glory 

I know, not a typical suggestion, but I have been a fan of this one ever since the first time I had the most vivid daydream to this song. Seriously, it was awesome in the true sense of the word. This song was the soundtrack to an epic battle beginning in free fall from the sky, swords clashing and wind twisted bodies about, dragons soaring in, flips, dives…it was a hell of a spell to find myself unexpectedly under. I wrote at least three different variations of a scene to this song, who knows how many more I’ll manage.

Hans Zimmer- Romani Holiday from Sherlock Holmes

It starts off soft and slow, but it doesn’t take long to pick up the pace and meet the notes that make your spine tingle…or mine anyway. Hans Zimmer is a fantastic composer and there are countless examples to prove it, and this is one. I love putting this on when looking for energy for a scene, perhaps a chase, switch, gambit, or a chaotic moment; my fingers can’t always keep pace.

Poitin- The Congress Wheel

Another song from the Sherlock Holmes, this one has a lot of energy and is sure to fuel your scene with its vivacity. It could easily inspire a jovial tavern scene, a suspenseful chase, a flirtatious allusion, etc. Even just listening to it a couple of times will inspire you to do something, so why not write a few paragraphs?

Misty Mountains Cold- The Hobbit

You don’t have to have read or seen The Hobbit to appreciate the inspiration that can be found in this song. I enjoy the landscapes and culture that come to mind as I listen to the sweet, rumbling voices in this song, even if I ignore the actual lyrics. When writing adventure, a harrowing journey, foreshadowing of trials, yearning, this is a good song to look to for inspiration, in my opinion.

Clocks and Clouds –Darkness Gives Way

I found Clocks and Clouds through Twitter, after they crossed my path by chance. As those who’ve been around a while can attest, I’m an adorer of strings, and this song plucks my heart just right. The shifting of the tempo and music lends itself to a changing scene, infusing you with all of its energy before you let fly on paper or screen.

For whom the bell tolls – Steve Baker & Carmen Daye

Donnie Darko fans may recognize this song, and it’s certainly one you should listen to if you’re looking for something to set the scene and inspire something dark, plaintive, haunting, sorrowful. It makes me think of a gallows on a frozen day, tears becoming icicles on frostbitten cheeks, perhaps a weary procession through a desolate wood. I don’t know many writers that could say they enjoy writing the type of scene invoked by this song, but listening to it could help channel that emotion into your words and your scene.

Vlada Mars- The Storm

When it comes to purely instrumental music, it’s more likely to be more solo strings than piano, just happens to be a personal preference. However, thanks to a suggestion from the witty and wonderful B.E. Van de Viere on Twitter, I gave a listen to some Vlada Mars and found The Storm. This music puts me in mind of grand old houses with something hidden inside, mysteries waiting to be unwrapped like presents, tumultuous situations ready to spiral into chaos.

Between Music- Breaking the Surface

Between Music is a band that plays and performs their music under water…yes, you read that right, under water, and some of the most hauntingly beautiful music you will hear. Putting aside the amazing ingenuity of creating instruments and apparatus to make this possible, I think it’s hard to disagree with the fact that this is some of the best music to inspire water related fantastical beings; mermaids, sirens, nymphs, water gods and goddesses, whatever story you find in the watery depths of the oceans. It’s definitely not for everyone, but something about this holds an ethereal beauty for me.

So concludes Part 3 of music to help get those writing gears going. I hope you’ve enjoyed! Do you have any favorites?

 

You Might Also Like:
Sensational Music to Make You Write: Part One
Sensational Music to Make You Write: Part Two

 

 

 

Sensational Music to Make You Write: Part Two

If you’re familiar with my blog, you may remember this post ,where I shared some amazing music that is great for writing to, or as inspiration for writing a scene. Since there is so much sensational music to be had, I had to split up my list. So without further ado, here is some more music to fuel your creative fire:

Faun

Egil Saga

Faun is an excellent source to turn to for fantasy writing or something with a Celtic or ancient feel to it. Their lyrics are often in languages like Latin, German, Scandinavian, and Greek, which adds to this old feel. I really enjoy this song, imagining a woodland realm of my creation as I type to the beat.

 

The Piano Guys

Cello Wars (Star Wars Parody)

This is another amazing band with cellos, can you tell I’m a fan of strings? I really love the beat in this one. It’s a familiar tune to Star Wars fans, but has a twist in the music with an up beat that will keep your head bobbing. An intense but fun scene comes to mind, perhaps a chase and formidable fight. The possibilities are up to you.

Adele – Hello / Lacrimosa (Mozart)

There’s something so beautiful and sad and about this piece, sometimes I just close my eyes and listen, letting the images wash over me. Often times I imagine and end up writing memory scenes, something poignant but adds to development, action, something; it builds, just as the music does. Or perhaps it’s the background to a harrowing journey where the hero or heroine is continuing despite all odds. You’re the writer, you decide, but give yourself a moment to experience this music and see what comes to your page from it.

 

Celtic Woman

A New Journey- Reels

Mairead Nesbitt is another amazingly talented musician that I adore watching play; she beams like the sun itself while she dances and flies over the stage, and it’s the same energy and heart that makes me want to give to my writing. There are so many possible scenes to write to this finger and toe-tapping if not feet flitting song; it’s wonderful for a warm and jovially setting or mood.

 

Epica
Sancta Terra

There’s something mysterious and intense in this beautifully delivered song. I’ve loved Epica for years, Simone Simmons has a voice that rings like glass (I got to meet her and the band once too, which was amazing). I find myself picturing different scenarios if I close my eyes and let myself feel this music; when I set myself to page to write, there seems to be an intriguing dark undertone at times, but it’s always a bit of a surprise what will come out. Sometimes I just soak up the majestic notes and hope they later somehow filter out through my fingers in my work.

 

Black Violin

Dirty Orchestra

For some reason, the first bars make me think of snowflakes falling, and soon after a white blanketed wood comes to mind, with running feet and snow flurries in the air behind fast freezing footprints, and off I go! There’s something fun and dark in this song that just begs for a dark yet scintillating story to accompany it.

 

 

Ramalama bang bang

By Róisín Murphy

Perhaps it’s the beat, perhaps it’s the overlay of her voice over the rhythm, who is to say? What I do know is that there is something incredibly fun about this song that gets my fingers twitching and makes me want to start typing out a story if not dancing around my apartment.

 

Simply three

Demons (Imagine Dragons) Cover- (violin/cello/bass)

Yes, if you still haven’t caught on, I’m a big fan of stringed instruments…but can you blame me? I mean, listen to that beauty….there’s no other way to express or describe things the way music does, but the images this song paints for me ignites my desire to try. Instead of with color or notes, I use the words I can find to describe the sensations and moments I want to capture and express, to encapsulate the essence of this song that is a story of its own. This one makes me think of homecoming, returning from a long journey with a myriad of mixed emotions.

 

Counting Stars (One Republic) Cover- (violin/cello/bass)

Something about this music makes me think of friendship and a general sense of joyfulness and activity. Closing my eyes, I imagine a vibrant and busy village nestled among the trees, ready feet kicking up dirt and grass in excitement while laughter rings among the strings’ notes. I wish my fingers could move as deftly and quickly as the thoughts that are stoked by this lovely music.

 

And there you have it, Part 2 of music to write to! There’s a good chance you’ll see another of these pop up as I remember and find new (or old) music that sets my writing fingers to tapping and my imagination whirling.

What did you think of this list? Do you have a favorite, or a scene that comes to mind?

If you feel like a fun little challenge, write the opening line to a scene inspired by one of these songs and share below in the comments!

music post