On the cusp of my week long writing road trip, today’s question is: Where would you go for the perfect writing retreat?
My answer is probably predictable for those who know me – I would go to Rome.
Last week’s question When crafting a new story – what works best for you, laptop, fountain pen, dictation, or longhand? certainly hit a note with many of you, although the answers went to my Facebook author page. However, here they are:
Normal programming will continue with an author interview. Slight hiccup with the interview being completed. In the meantime I am re-posting this. It is rather apt as I am currently in the midst of editing a sequel myself and also involved with a small NaNoWriMo editing group where five authors and I are going through each other’s manuscripts. Several chapters a month works well for our process.
As writers we love to be immersed in our own creations -weaving plots, planning and following story arcs, creating character profiles as well as their trials and tribulations. Our minds are full of questions : What happens next? How would my character react? Is that plausible or believable? Can I improve on that scene? Have I shown not told? Is there too much exposition? Would the reader have enough description to envisage the scene?
Graph – speedofcreativity.com
All these questions need to be answered but not when we are writing the first draft. This initial phase is the most enjoyable part of creating a story. Remember to give your inner editor time off enabling you to create freely and get the basic story line written. Once you have finished, the ‘real’ work starts. Continuity, grammar, spelling, character development, revisions to scenes etc. the list is long and sometimes overwhelming. Where should you start?
Once the story is complete put it to one side and go onto new projects. Leave it for a month or more (I’ve left two projects for nearly 6 months). When you go back to re-read you have fresh eyes giving you new insights. Your revision process may be to correct everything above as you read each page or you could concentrate on one item at a time, re-reading each time giving you a particular focus. This second method does lean itself to sharpening the process as you are not trying to ‘spot’ numerous revision types at the same time. With your editing done let your favored readers have it. Take note of their suggestions and correct any errors they may find. No matter how many times you or your beta readers go through the manuscript there will always be a word missed, mis-spelt or a continuity slip up. How do you make your manuscript as good as it can be?
A professional editor – if you can afford one – is a good investment. However, one trick that may work for you in finding those elusive errors is to read the book from back to front page by page. Another is to read it out aloud to yourself or a understanding friend (a glass or two of wine helps with this one!) A missed word is very obvious with this technique.
When editing there may be sentences or even whole paragraphs that you know need to be revised or even omitted from the manuscript to help with the flow of the story line or scene. Deleting these is hard – it is your creation and your words were written through hard work. There are different opinions on what to do with these revisions but I think they should be saved in a separate document until you are absolutely sure you do want to delete them and even then you may keep them as a record of how the scene developed. They are a writer’s jetsam so to speak, which is my link to today’s calendar word. I had to squeeze it in somewhere!
These ejected words from our ‘ship’ may float on our hard drives or become washed up in a document folder but wherever they end up they are part of our creative soul and never truly lost. We may pick them up from the shore in the future to use in another piece of writing or they may stay hidden in the depths of our files. No matter which scenario occurs, they are born of you and precious all the same.
As writers we endeavor to produce the very best manuscript or article we can and that is why we endure the editing process. Without this method of correcting and improving, our creations will not be polished and worthy of reading and that is the one thing we all want – our work to be read and enjoyed.
I wish you fortitude in your process to make your work excel and delight your readers.
In my youth, my father filled my bookshelves with Tolkien, Lewis, L’Engle, Alexander, and Eddings. As I entered adulthood, he bought me Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books as they released.
My dad’s health declined. I began writing my own fantasy novel, transforming my useless anxiety into imaginative scribbling.
During this time, Robert Jordan was diagnosed with a disease similar to my father’s. They endured identical treatments, even taking part in a study for the same drug.
Jordan passed away before completing the series which was finished by Brandon Sanderson. My husband gave me those last three books because my father was gone too.
The sole connection between my dad and Jordan may appear tragic, but out of despair came Tranquility.
How did you come up with the title?
Tranquility is the name of a book within my novel. I wanted the title of that book to clearly represent peace, which was the intended purpose of the rules in that book.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
When I buy a fantasy book, I’m looking for a good story to curl up with and enjoy. I wrote a book I would want to read. Great books stick with me, and make me want to discuss them with other readers. A fictional story becomes the reader’s once the book is in their hands, and any message received is personal. I hope my book provides what good fiction should be: enjoyment; a story that remains in hearts and minds; and a reason for thoughtful discussion. That’s a tall order, I know.
How much of the book is realistic?
My hope is that the emotions, characters, and general circumstances connect to the real world enough for readers to identify with them. Some of the setting and characters were inspired by the Adirondacks, one of my favorite places. The messengers in the last chapter were inspired by a pair of Southern Ground Hornbills, who still reside at the Philadelphia Zoo. However, this is an absolute work of fiction.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
There are pieces of me, people I know, and experiences I have sprinkled throughout the story. Close family and friends tease me about certain characters, who remind them of me. The best fun is when people project themselves on characters, who are not at all inspired by them.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
My website is the best place to connect with me. I do not have a blog.
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
I have the first few chapters of a stand alone WIP written and sitting on the back burner. The sequel to Tranquility is taking precedence.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why? I think Taelmai is high on my list of favorite characters. She struggles with hypochondria, but her nurturing personality drives her to care deeply for others, allowing an underlying bravery to well up. She’s a complicated, anxious, loving person, and I wonder about her reliability. She feels very human to me as I care for, worry about, and doubt her.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
Fantasy is my favorite genre. I do like to dabble. My short story Kat, The Jailer, and Jack is a retelling of an Indian folk tale The Tiger, The Brahmin, and the Jackal. This was fun to write because it was backwards for me. I took this old story filled with personification and reworked it into a modern all human cast of characters.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
Seat of my pants, definitely! Reading an interview with Madeleine L’Engle was a huge inspiration to me. Until I read it, I knew I had a basic idea for a story, but I didn’t know where it would go or how it would end. I thought I needed to have this outline to be a REAL writer. Then I read “The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy” by Leonard S. Marcus. He asked L’Engle, “Did you know from the start how the story would end?” she responded, “No. I’ve never done that! It is more fun not to know. If you know exactly what is going to happen, it doesn’t work. But if you start to write the story and listen to it, see where it wants to go … well, I think that’s how God creates.”
Reading this from one of my most-admired authors freed me from self-imposed constraints. I began to write, and the story unfolded.
What is your best marketing tip?
I value personal, grass roots effort as a strong starting place. I have a small teen/young adult tribe who have agreed to help me promote my book. They will be involved in everything from sharing and creating social media posts to live-streaming my author events and overseeing craft tables to talking to group leaders at their schools. Their peers are my readers. There is no better way to reach a population than to have some enthusiastic members encouraging their peers to enjoy what they have enjoyed. Also, talk to people and listen well. I discovered three friends, who have connections to newspaper/magazine publications. All three of them have helped me secure feature articles about my book. Talking to my town’s librarian and comic book store owner have secured me two author events. When I was on vacation in the Adirondacks, I talked to bookstore owners and loon conservationists about my book and its being inspired by their part of the world and the creatures residing there. I’ve made some great connections. Get yourself out there!
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
I have mixed feelings about social media. Tending to it takes a lot of time away from my writing and the personal engagement I prefer. However, it is a convenient way to reach a lot of people.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I enjoy losing myself in the story as it develops. This feels very similar to why I love to read.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both?
I usually read for pleasure, but now that I am a writer, I find myself reading differently, noticing technical writing choices. I try hard to put that away, and just enjoy, but sometimes I am struck by a point of view or how dialogue is handled and I become thoughtful about the craft instead of the story.
Where is your favorite writing space?
I dream of writing in a cafe, using WiFi, and sipping a cafe mocha. However, I am a homeschooling mom, who is thankful for the times that my kids are learning independently, taking a class, volunteering, at practice, or playing outside so that I can write by daylight. For me, it’s more about a favorite time to write. That would be by daylight, but out of necessity, most of my writing happens in the wee hours. As for where this happens, I mix it up between my kitchen table, dining room table, and sometimes, when the sun is still up, the desk in my bedroom. That makes me feel fancy!
CHRISTA CONKLIN is the author of several articles, and two short stories: Moontail and Kat, the Jailer, and Jack. Tranquility is her debut novel for which she received the 2016 Cascade Award for Unpublished Speculative Fiction. She teaches piano and woodwinds at a music school in her small New Jersey town. Her family hikes mountains, paddles lakes, strolls city streets, and picks their own everything at local farms and from their own gardens. She and her meteorologist husband home school their children and don’t train their Miniature Goldendoodle. Visit her at christaconklin.com.
Tranquility by Christa Conklin “Tranquility is a refreshing take on the fantasy genre. Filled with magic, prophecies, and plenty of mythical beings, Conklin weaves an intriguing, imaginative tale that grabs you and doesn’t let you go until the last page. With a rich cast of characters, vivid world building, and a story you’ll be talking about long after you finish reading, Tranquility leaves readers both satisfied and yearning for the next adventure in the series.” —Kathryn Lee Martin, author, the Snow Spark Saga Elk Lake Publishing, Inc. March 20, 2019
Blurb: She must prove there’s more to life than peace and more to death than dying. The One People find guidance to peace and unity in the pages of TRANQUILITY. Drethene views the methods prescribed in the book as hurtful attempts to escape their diverse ancestry. Such pain is personal, as her parents aim to conceal how different she looks from the rest of their people. Even her job keeps Drethene quiet and secluded. While working in the Academy library, she secretly reads histories used only to teach future leaders to loathe the past. Drethene is inspired by these books filled with cultural variety. When she discovers another world as part of her people’s heritage, a well established enemy is revealed, and she rises to meet the truth and save both worlds. Now Drethene must convince the One People that their lives are not as tranquil as they seem. They are being hunted and must reunite with a sisterworld that has been erased from their past. If they choose to remain in the comfort of their rewritten history and false sense of peace. they will be dragged into a maelstrom they have forgotten to fear.