Recently I noticed a trend on Youtube.com where writers were making vlogs and answering questions about themselves as well as writing rituals and practices. So, I thought I would do this as well and even throw in some random personal questions. You can learn a few things I do as well as learn something new about me at the same time!
I will start with the writing ritual questions first and then get down to some random and fun facts about me.
- When do you write? I am a night owl which is perfect for my writing as I need the quiet time to be free of distractions. These elements help me to immerse into my writing zone. With my day job I am fortunate that it starts later in the day and I can sleep in! Usually, I write from 11 or 11:30 pm to 1:30 to 2am.
- How do you review what you wrote the previous day? There is a lot of sound advice out there on how to produce more material on a daily basis. The best tip so far that I picked up suggests to work non-stop and do not edit until you have completed your manuscript. I cannot say that it was easy to resist the edit bug, but Consequences Within Chaos‘s first rough draft took me three years to write (I wasn’t as serious about writing and producing as I am now). The Bleeding Crown, my sequel’s rough draft has only taken five months… I would say that this is proof enough that it helped me crank it out much faster.
- What song is your “go to” when you are feeling uninspired? I prefer to listen to classical music when I write. Nothing but instrumentals. At first, I used Pandora, but now I like to find large blocks of “epic music” on Youtube. I let them play in the background as I work. Depending on the type of story or my mood this can vary, but I do not have a “go to” song necessarily. Soundtracks from Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings or Braveheart also have been able to motivate me.
- What do you always do when you are struggling with writers’ block? To avoid writers’ block and staring at a blank screen, I work up detailed outlines. There are many benefits to outlines and developing character backgrounds. Prepping is the key to getting into that writer zone — that moment your writing flows from your fingertips and there is no struggle to find the right word or dialog. I have already seen the scene in my head and now I can concentrate on relaying it in the best descriptive details I can.
- What tools do you use when you are drafting? I used Microsoft Word like everyone else at first, but now I prefer the writers’ program called Scrivener. It seems that there is no middle ground in opinions on it. You either LOVE IT OR HATE IT. I love it! It has a great setup to store the work, organize the notes, templates for character write-ups, outlines, everything all in one file and place. With Word, I had a million files. Scrivener also lets you have split screening which comes in handy often.
- What are the things you cannot live without when you are writing? Pretty much what I have already discussed: Scrivener has become an integral part of my work. And Outlining a must. Before I realized that I work best with a map of my story, I failed to complete most stories and/or lost interests or energy in the storyline.
- How do you fuel yourself during writing sessions? Diet Rockstars and Popsecret Homestyle Microwave popcorn.
- How do you know when you are done writing? For a typical writing session, I am done when my eyes are blurring and I cannot easily put a sentence together. I strive for a certain word count (or if I am feeling energetic, I try to do a particular scene in one shot). My goal is 750 to 1,000 words in a session but it depends on the night, the scene I am writing and my energy level.
- How do you persevere on projects to finish them? Again, outlines have become the “light at the end of the tunnel” for me. However, they can be a detriment as well if you let it completely control your writing. In some cases, writers have complained that they are too confined by the outline or they get thrown off if they have an idea that flows outside the outline. Or if you do like I did at the end of my first book — I kept seeing how close I was and I literally blazed through the last part to just get to that “The End” statement. It didn’t lend itself well to the story and took a lot of rewriting. Now that I am more experienced I have a little better control of myself. Whatever is the case, one important factor to remember is that outlines are constructs for your use, not words set in stone. If something strikes you suddenly and it isn’t in your outline, then simply add it. See where the idea takes you in the outline. It is much easier to amend, add or subtract from an outline than if you change your whole story, rewrote a massive amount of text to only find out it doesn’t work after all. As you can see, I approach writing now much more on an organized, structured viewpoint (I have poured myself into reading a lot of advice books and writing craft material). With my word counts per day and scheduling, I know roughly when I am going to be done. I would have to say that of the various stages in writing, outlining has become my favorite. Building that foundation produces that momentum and drive I need to finish. I know how the idea is going to end and now I just have to write it out so that I can share that fantastic story and ending with you!
- How do you keep consistency in your novels? Scrivener has become a large help with keeping notes and such, but I also utilize Excel charting, Pinterest for story sources and Word files for isolated notes (you can import these into Scrivener as well). Also, I read once that if you go back through your manuscript after you write it and plot out all the events on a timeline as they occur in the prose, you will see any possible plot holes or events that happen out of order.
- How do you handle when you are stuck in your plot? OYYY That is so hard to get through. I have encountered that when a question occurs to me that I haven’t determined the answer for yet or it has happened when I haven’t really fleshed out the outline enough for that part of the story. Take a short break, move on to the next part or go back to your outline to further think of ways to move through the block. Give yourself some distance from it so as to give yourself another vantage point to see the issue. Also, sometimes you can hit up other writers to bounce ideas off or you can hit the internet for possible answers or options.
- How do you come up with ideas to fill out your outline? Pretty much the same answer as the above question. Maybe think of a new subplot that would add to the story that you could weave into the outline? Be careful though. Don’t add filler or fluff just to make word counts. Readers will see right through that. Make the quality just as important as the quantity as well. Filling up the outline takes a lot of thought and this is where I have had “writers’ block” and frustration, but ideas eventually come. Some writers let their subconscious mull it over as they sleep or during the day while on their day jobs.
- How long did it take to write your first draft and how many edits? I already said that the first draft was three years, but it took another two years of editing, refining, reworking and adding to the story. Then I had to determine which path I was going to take: Traditional or Self-publishing. I am truly happy with the self-publishing route and the entire process has been very fulfilling. I have learned a massive amount about my writing, myself and the writing industry over the last year. It has also enhanced my work and my techniques. I am passing a lot of what I learned in blogs like this so you can also jumpstart your own paths.
- How long do you wait to revise your first draft? This time I waited over 5 weeks (it was not easy) but was way worth the “time off” to recharge, work on other projects and was a bit of an award for working so hard. Now I am in the heart of my first edit. Industry experts suggest 6 weeks. It just so happened the first of the month came up during the fifth week so it felt right to start then. The first time I didn’t take any time off after writing to wait to edit.
- Is there a genre that is outside your comfort zone that you think would be fun to write? Currently, I am a horror/medieval fantasy writer and I love both. I like to write horror just a tad more but I love to read fantasy so much that I write fantasy stories for me. I used to read an Ed McBain’s detective novels (87th Precinct) and Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes series has also inspired me to write in the “hard-boiled grim detective” genre. I will be writing my Elude Novels during the NaNoWriMo Challenge this November. I have been excited about it and so far I have gotten some really positive reactions from the samples posted online.
Now for some more personal stuff and random questions 🙂
- Where were you born? I am originally from a small town called Warsaw, Indiana. I moved out to Phoenix, Arizona in 1996 and have loved it for over twenty-one years! Summer year round is amazing.
- What is your favorite pizza toppings? I am a huge Hawaiian Pizza fan but it doesn’t take much to please me with pizza — just throw a couple types of meat and some cheese on it and I am there!
- If you could eat anything right now, what would it be? I love Snow Crab Legs! Thanks go to my wife for showing me the great wonders of crab.
- Where have you traveled outside the country? I haven’t done much traveling, but I have been to Rocky Point, Mexico and various parts of Canada. I would love to see Australia and Scotland in my lifetime though.
- Who has been the biggest influence in your life? Why? The two authors that really influenced me are from two opposing genres — Stephen King, of course, made me dream of being a writer — many writers and would-be writers growing up in the 80s would agree with that. I devoured every novel or short story I could get my hands on. In my late twenties, I started reading fantasy and that became my new obsession. I read and collected everything by R.A. Salvatore. These two authors definitely shaped my writing voice.
- What do you think is the best television show created? I am really invested in the Game of Thrones series which should not shock anyone. My favorite before that was Dexter (you see a theme here? Fantasy/Horror. I cannot seem to escape this trend!). I have also really liked Penny Dreadful, Star Trek, Breaking Bad and the Walking Dead.
- What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies and interests? I am a huge fan of racquetball, pickleball and tennis. I also love hiking and occasionally I like to lift weights — which I need to make more routine! Movies and video games are also a great source of inspiration and entertainment. Absolutely love my family and spending time on the weekends with them especially.
- Proudest moment in life? Can’t help but say the moment when I first held Jessiena, my two-year-old daughter! Every element of my life has led up to this wonderful little life in my hands and I wouldn’t have changed a thing!!
- Do you have any tattoos and/or piercings? I have a large shoulder tattoo that I am very happy with. I designed it — it has a black Celtic knot in the center of a ring of three black, tribal dragon heads. The knot represents the many convoluted ways you can take in life and the dragon heads represent the three aspects of my Past, my Present and the Future me.
- Favorite holiday or time of year? October and especially Halloween is the best for me. It really brings out the creative side of me and I like to work up new costumes each year. They tend to be nearly all undead but with twists or unique differences. So much fun! My wife is also going to dress this year (she hasn’t in a long time). She will be doing the Day of the Dead look maybe. Jessiena will be a tiny scarecrow. She’s going to be so adorable!
Okay, I think that will do. Hope this was useful and you got some helpful writing tips. Or at least a little fun for your day!
Happy Halloween, Everyone!