We have all felt disheartened as writers. It can manifest itself in a variety of forms. Lack of impetus, illness, stress, unrealistic comparisons, self expectations or stumbling over a particular section in a writing project. Some call it writers block. In truth it is just life.
Firstly, don’t beat yourself up, you are not alone. Every writer, whether novice or any of the top 100 authors, have doubts about what they are writing. We question ourselves – is it good enough, over and over. This can only spiral us downward into self-doubt. There are ways to give yourself a pick you up. I hope these help.
1. Focus on enjoying telling your stories. Do it to the best of your ability.
2. Remember you are building an inventory of your writing but also learning your craft.
3. Lessen your expectations, don’t be so hard on yourself. Yes, we all want a certain quality to our work, but with patience it will come. There is no quick fix.
4. Don’t compare another writer’s finished work against your in process drafts. You have no idea how many changes they made.
5. Remember you get to rule over your own creative process. You choose, shape, mold, and create whatever you want.
6, Your words will, in time, sway minds, move hearts, and touch the lives of dozens of people you will never meet in person.
7. Your words, your stories are your legacy.
8. Do not take rejection personally. Think of it as a learning tool.
9. Take a long-term view of your writing career – no-one is ever an overnight success.
10. Participate in supportive writer groups. Share your work with encouraging friends.
What have you found works for you when you are feeling disheartened?
Yes, it is NaNoWriMo month and there is the usual flurry of activity. Pre-planning, devising ideas, questioning if you should do it or not and the encouragement of the writing community. As I said before this year’s NaNo, for me, has me delving into an unknown genre and the start of a trilogy.
I have booked every Monday off work in November to allow myself extra time to write. This doesn’t normally happen but without the option of taking vacations, this year due to COVID19, I thought my best use of my days would be short writing retreats and extra time in November.
My first writing day, Sunday, was a super day. I had the house to myself, apart from the dogs, so indulged in writing for most of the day. Apart from several dog walks, and the occasional snack! My total for the day was 14,558. And at the time, I was super happy with that.
However, the next day doubts began to creep in. Had I given too many clues or sited too many suspects within those 14K words? This halted my writing. Should I re-start or continue? As we all know NaNo writing is just the first draft of a manuscript, so I shook off the doubts and returned to the story. Last night’s total was 16,951.
I may have to dissect this novel in the New Year, but for now I will enjoy the journey my characters are taking me on.
Are your participating in NaNoWriMo? What is your project?
We all need to refresh our writing Muse, so this past Thanksgiving long weekend, I enjoyed two day road trips to Miquelon Lake Provincial Park. The first was on Saturday and then again on Monday. Both trips were a discovery of back roads and nature. It was chilly and breezy but glorious colours of the season were enjoyed.
There was plenty of wildfowl, a friendly squirrel, a couple of muskrats and evidence of a busy beaver too.
Although, I did some research for my detective book series and compiled a file folder of research, I did not write. We all need downtime.
However, I may write a short story on the unusual sight of a beaver lodge with a satellite dish! It’s too good not to.
Inspiration does come from anywhere and everywhere.
Not until I was a teenager when I wrote my first complete novel (“Caged-In World”—which later served as a very rough draft for my first published novel, “Darwin’s Paradox”). My first published work was my non-fiction article “Environmental Citizenship” which appeared in Shared Vision Magazine in 1995. My first fiction work was a short story entitled “Arc of Time”, which was published in Armchair Aesthete in 2002. However, I told stories long before I wrote them and long before any of them was published. I told stories in the form of cartoons. Since I was a small child, I wanted to be a cartoonist and write graphic novels (back then I knew them as comics). I created several strips with crazy characters that I drew, blending my love for drawing with my love for storytelling.
What made you decide on science fiction as a genre?
That goes back to my love for comics. I wasn’t much of a reader as a kid. While my older brother and sister devoured The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series, I secreted myself in the back corner of Williams General store and read Superman and Superboy, Supergirl, Batman, The Fantastic Four, Flash, Magnus Robot Fighter and Green Lantern. I was obviously enamoured with the fantastic. When I earnestly started to read things other than comics, I came across the SF classics: Huxley, Orwell, Heinlein, Clarke, Silverberg and Asimov to name a few. Bradbury sent me over the moon and his “Martian Chronicles” made me cry. I wanted to write like him and move readers like he’d done with me.
The reason I continue to write in this genre is because of its ability to encompass the creative imagination and application of metaphor to story. Given its wide range of possibilities in creating a believable reality of the fantastic, science fiction provides a compelling platform for metaphoric storytelling. Possibilities for powerful archetypes abound. Where else can you make water an actual character?
Was the ecological aspect of your stories a gradual realization or your primary objective?
My primary objective was always to tell a compelling and meaningful story and hopefully to move readers. The ecological aspects slid in unannounced like a shadow character. It made sense: the environment and how we treat it (and ourselves by extension) has always been something important to me since I was a child. So, while I was writing science fiction, it was also eco-fiction. When the brand became more known, I realised that this was the kind of science fiction I was writing most of the time.
Do you prefer writing novels or short stories?
I love writing both forms. Each form challenges in a different way and each lends itself to a different kind of story. Since I was a child, I had wanted to write novels. But as I got older and became familiar with the publishing industry, I learned that one of the best ways to get exposure and credentials to successfully publish a first novel was to get known as a published short story writer. So, I started writing short stories. I didn’t write them very well at first; they read like novel-wannabies. And that’s exactly the feedback I got from the magazines I submitted to. Then I figured it all out and I started to sell my short stories. Lots of them. And reprints too. They’ve even won some awards! When I published my first novel in 2007, I didn’t stop writing short. While my love for the novel drives my writing (I have published nine novels so far), I love the short form for its challenges and need for discipline and its powerful platform of “short.” I am particularly proud of my two latest shorts: “Alien Landscape” in The Group of Seven Reimagined (2019); and “Out of the Silence” in subTerrain Magazine, Issue 85 (2020).
Does your teaching aid your writing or the other way around?
Both. I teach writing skills to scientists, medical students and engineers. I also teach creatives who are learning to write long and short fiction. What I find is that my writing and publishing experiences—both the successes and the failures—help me share more practical lessons with my students. Experiences with my students also help my writing. In fact, my latest non-fiction book—the third book of my Alien Guidebook Series on place as character (“The Ecology of Story: World as Character”)—came largely from my experiences with my students.
Do you prefer writing fiction or non-fiction?
I love both forms for different reasons. If I had to pick one from passion, I’d pick fiction and its expression of my imagination; if I had to pick one from utility and general satisfaction, I’d pick non-fiction for how it responds to and communicates reality. Having said that, they are more like each other than many readers realize. Both tell stories. Both use compelling narrative with a tease or hook and final conclusion. Both require research. Both must create a believable “reality” and both dispense truth—in non-fiction truth is literal and in fiction it is metaphoric. But then there are hybrids out there such as creative non-fiction and diaries or journals. And finally my latest piece of fiction—“A Diary in the Age of Water”—that reports on real events and real people.
Can you tell us about your newest book “A Diary in the Age of Water”?
The book is essentially a journey of four generations of women, who have a unique relationship with water, during climate change and water shortage. The book spans over forty years (from the 2020s to the 2060s) and into the far future, mostly through the diary of a limnologist (someone who studies freshwater), which is found by a future water-being. During the diarist’s lifetime, all things to do with water are overseen and controlled by the international giant water utility CanadaCorp—with powers to arrest and detain anyone. This is a world in which China owns America and America, in turn, owns Canada. The limnologist witnesses and suffers through severe water taxes and imposed restrictions, dark intrigue through neighbourhood water betrayals, corporate spying and espionage, and repression of her scientific freedoms. Some people die. Others disappear…
How did you come up with the concept for the book?
It started with a short story I was invited to write in 2015 about water and politics in Canada. I had long been thinking of potential ironies in Canada’s water-rich heritage. The premise I wanted to explore was the irony of people in a water-rich nation experiencing water scarcity: living under a government-imposed daily water quota of 5 litres as water bottling and utility companies took it all. I named the story “The Way of Water.” It was about a young woman (Hilda) in near-future Toronto who has run out of water credits for the public wTap; by this time houses no longer have potable water and their water taps have been cemented shut; the only way to get water is through the public wTaps—at great cost. She’s standing two metres from water—in a line of people waiting to use the tap—and dying of thirst.
“The Way of Water” captures a vision that explores the nuances of corporate and government corruption and deceit together with global resource warfare. In this near-future, Canada is mined of all its water by thirsty Chinese and US multinationals—leaving nothing for the Canadians. Rain has not fallen on Canadian soil in years due to advances in geoengineering and weather manipulation that prevent rain clouds from going anywhere north of the Canada-US border. If you’re wondering if this is possible, it’s already happening in China and surrounding countries.
Is there anything else you would like to mention or advise your readers?
I’m often also asked why I chose to write the fiction book as mostly a diary. I was writing about both the far and the near future and much of it was based—like Margaret Atwood and her books—on real events and even real people. I wanted personal relevance to what was going on, particularly with climate change. I also wanted to achieve a gritty realism of “the mundane” and a diary felt right. Lynna—the diarist—is also a reclusive inexpressive character, so I thought a personal diary would help bring out her thoughts and feelings more. There’s nothing like eves-dropping to make the mundane exciting. The diary-aspect of the book characterizes it as “mundane science fiction” by presenting an “ordinary” setting for characters to play out. The tension arises more from insidious cumulative events and circumstances that slowly grow into something incendiary.
Where can readers find your work?
In the usual places: in the local libraries or book stores, on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and through the publisher. You can also go to my writing / coaching website www.ninamunteanu.me where I keep an updated publication list and a bookstore window to other bookselling outlets. Most of my books are available in several formats: print, ebook, audiobook.
Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and award-winning novelist and short story writer. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Nina’s non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. “A Diary in the Age of Water” is her thirteenth book.
1. Can you tell us why you chose science fiction & fantasy as a genre?
I think it kind of chose me. I have two older brothers, both of whom read it, so those were the books that were around the house. The first one I remember is Robert Silverberg’s Revolt on Alpha C, his first novel, written when he was nineteen. I was hooked, and read everything I could get my hands on. When I was eleven, I wrote my first complete short story, “Kastra Glazz: Hypership Test Pilot.” My course was clearly set.
What has always appealed to me about science fiction and fantasy is the unlimited opportunity it provides to give your imagination free reign. Every other genre seems sadly limited once you’ve experienced that freedom.
2. You have a series called The Worldshaper Series. Can you tell us how you got the initial idea?
I wanted a book series that could be open ended and that would allow me to tell any kind of story I wanted, in any kind of world, but with the same characters. My inspiration was Doctor Who, the greatest storytelling conceit ever: you can tell any story within that framework, anywhere in time or space.
My version: a series of worlds which are consciously Shaped by individuals who then live within those worlds, rather like authors living inside the books they’ve written. The worlds can run the gamut from fantasy-inspired to science fictional to historical to purely whimsical. So far, I’ve had a world much like ours, one inspired by Jules Verne, and one featuring werewolves and vampires!
3. Will there be another book in the series?
I hope so. If DAW Books decides not to continue the series, I’ll likely continue it myself and publish it through my own Shadowpaw Press. Book 4 is sketched out, so I’m ready to go!
4. Which character(s) do you like the best in this series?
Shawna Keys. She’s the first-person narrator of the bulk of the story, and she’s my opportunity to indulge in my own geeky sense of humour. She’s great fun to write.
5. Where can we purchase these books?
Everywhere! DAW Books is distributed by Penguin Random House, so anyone who sells books will either have or can order the Worldshapers novels. For autographed copies, you can go to my online store, www.edwardwillettshop.com. (I don’t have The Moonlit World yet, though, because of distribution issues related to Covid-19.)
6. Do you think the cover art plays a important role?
Absolutely. DAW books always have great covers, and the Worldshapers books are no exception. The artist, Juliana Kolesova, has used the same model on each cover. Since she’s based in Toronto, I wonder if the next time I’m there I might see Shawna Keys walking down the street!
8. You also write short stories, how is the process difference from writing a novel for you?
Short stories are typically more limited in time and space—but not necessarily. Really, the difference is the length, and in the amount of worldbuilding detail you can cram in. I’ve written relatively few short stories. I think I’m much more a novelist at heart.
9. How many books have you written?
Something over twenty novels and more than sixty in total, counting non-fiction.
10. How many anthologies have you contributed to?
A half-dozen or so.
11. You also write non-fiction – how is the process different from writing fiction?
I don’t get to make up stuff. Or, at least, not as much stuff. More research. Less dialogue. More footnotes.
12. How do you chose your non-fiction topics?
I usually don’t. Publishers or clients looking for a writer approach me and ask if I’d be willing to take on a specific topic. I almost always say yes!
13. You have also written under the name E.C. Blake and Lee Arthur Chane – can you share why?
Marketing reasons. My first books for DAW were science fiction (Lost in Translation, and the two books of what was later called The Helix War: Marseguro and Terra Insegura). They wanted me to try my hand at fantasy, which was selling better at the time, and suggested I use a new name because of the genre change and to attract new readers. So, for Magebane, a fat stand-alone fantasy, I became Lee Arthur Chane (the middle names of my two older brothers, Jimmy Lee Willett and Dwight Arthur Willett, and myself, Edward Chane Willett). Then I kind of switched genres again: the Masks of Aygrima trilogy was essentially YA fantasy, with a fifteen-year-old female protagonist. E.C. Blake wrote those. Then I returned to science fiction and to my own name with The Cityborn and the Worldshapers books. I’ve only used the pseudonyms with DAW so far—my novels with other publishers are all under my own name—but E.C. Blake may have a new one coming out soon from my own Shadowpaw Press, called Blue Fire.
14. Where can readers find your books?
As noted earlier, my DAW Books are readily available through any bookstore. Check out my page on Amazon, as well.
You can also find the books I’ve published through Shadowpaw Press at shadowpawpress.com. You can order print books directly from there, and download ebooks directly from there, as well.
Speaking of Shadowpaw Press, it’s just released the ebook of a major new anthology that I edited, with the print version to follow in mid-November.
Shapers of Worlds features short fiction by authors who were guests during the first year of my Aurora Award-winning podcast, The Worldshapers, where I interview other science fiction and fantasy authors about the creative process.
I Kickstarted the anthology earlier this year. It features new fiction from Seanan McGuire, Tanya Huff, David Weber, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., D.J. Butler, Christopher Ruocchio, John C. Wright, Shelley Adina, and me, plus reprints from John Scalzi, David Brin, Joe Haldeman, Julie E. Czerneda, Fonda Lee, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Gareth L. Powell, Derek Künsken, and Thoraiya Dyer. That list includes international bestsellers, plus winners of and nominees for every major award in science fiction and fantasy, so I’m very excited about it!
15. How can readers connect with you online?
I’m on Twitter @ewillett, on Facebook @edward.willett, and on Instagram @edwardwillettauthor.