I completed NaNoWriMo on 15th November 2019, which is the fastest I have ever managed to write the 50,000 words required. This left me with several options, one of which was to continue with this story, Seasons of an Affair and increase the word count to 70,000 plus to create a draft manuscript for future editing and revision.
However, a book I placed on order some time ago became available. This particular book is the story of a man, who escaped society and lived alone for 27 years. Known as the North Pond Hermit, Chris Knight existed in a make shift camp with no human contact for all that time. I initially read the newspaper reports when he was captured and it sparked an idea for a novel, along with two other strange news stories, this became my 2014 NaNo novel – The Giving Thief. After reading the book of his life (twice) I was plunged back into that story. Do I go back to it and complete it?
Then another on order book became available giving me my third option. This is a research book on steampunk, which is the genre of one of my 2018 NaNo projects. I used that NaNo challenge to write the sequel to The Rython Kingdom and launched Rython Legacy in 2019. However, the other ‘novella’ project for that year quickly expanded into a full length novel, The Commodore’s Gift, from a short story I’d written some time before. So I am tempted to revive this story line as well.
So which will I chose?
As a writer we all have multiple story ideas racing around our heads all the time. It is difficult to decide which story to choose when they all clamor for attention.
Firstly, apologies for not getting a post up sooner – as you can imagine with full time work and writing my NaNo novel it’s been a bit hectic along with the usual life stuff.
Having said that I am, as of Thursday 14th November only a couple thousand off my target of 50,000 words so a celebration is imminent. I was late to NaNo this year as I only just completed publishing the sequel to The Rython Kingdom. After numerous reader requests for a sequel I used last year’s NaNo to write one and as we all know that is only the start of the journey to getting a book published. Rython Legacy has been favorably received – whew!
I did dither about actually participating in NaNo this year, I have two manuscripts lying in wait from other year’s and couldn’t decide whether to tackle them or create a whole new story. Then there was the problem of what story to write. As with most writers there is a lot to choose from – part stories, pages of story ideas and everything left on the back burner. As it happened a new story formed out of no where and that’s what I have been busily typing. It is a love story of sorts set in a university. This gave me my first problem I have never been to university so research has been a huge part of this challenge. However, my daughter and future daughter-in-law have been so I have utilized their experiences into the narrative.
Of course any NaNo novel is the first draft and the manuscript will go through many changes, revisions and editing before it is ready for publication. For now I am fully immersed in my characters, their setting and where the story is going.
Good luck to my fellow NaNoWriMo writers – word power is our thing.
It energizes me big time! I feel so excited when I get a good writing session in, it’s hard to stop. I could go for hours, but my time is usually limited. When I write short stories in particular, I usually can’t stop until it’s done and I’m happy with it, all in one session. I love it!
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Stress. There are certain things I can write while stressed, but the most common issue for me is settling my mind into writing. I have to work to get myself relaxed and creatively focused, which can take music, ambiance, changing the colors on the screen, and other things. Not fun.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I have! I like writing a lot of different genres, from dark psychological suspense to positivity poetry and haikus, cozy short stories to horror. I’ve polled my readers on this, and they tend to agree that I should keep my real name and at most use my first initial instead of my full first name.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’m friends with loads of authors, both in person and online, and they all offer different perspectives on writing as well as balancing writing with other work. They’re really good at getting me inspired and motivated! It’s really good to have friends who understand your creative successes and dilemmas—not everyone does.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Both! My Dark Victoriana Collection is written so that readers can enjoy each book as a standalone, but they’ll enjoy my books on another level if they’ve read the whole collection. Characters and scenes cross over in each novel or short story, so some scenes mean more with the full understand of the collection.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Scrivener, for sure. Using Word was actually stopping me from writing anything longer than a short story. I don’t write in order, I write my scenes in random order, so trying to control that in one Word document or multiple Word documents was not productive for me. Using Scrivener, I just put each scene in one project but in separate text pages, and voila! It’s organized!
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I think Shakespeare’s Hamlet impacted me heavily with this. It was in that play that I realized how important it was to infuse meaning that could be interpreted different ways, and that’s a huge part of my books, which are purposely multi-layered so that readers can either read for entertainment or for depth—whatever they like best.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
The Distant Sound of Violence by Jason Greensides. He’s an incredible author, and I recommend his novel to anyone who will listen. The psychology, the depth of emotion, the varied characters, and a lot more all come together into something that should really be much better known. Highly impactful contemporary fiction at its best.
I also have to mention Josh de Lioncourt’s The Dragon’s Brood Cycle series, which is bestseller-level fantasy. He’s an outstanding author who blows me away with his incredible worldbuilding and careful attention to detail. He’s on par with some of the biggest fantasy authors out there.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I think alpacas are my spirit animals because they’re very curious and intelligent, and I think they’d really appreciate all the Victorian research I do. They’re herd animals, too, and I have to say my writing community means a lot to me. Plus they’re just so CUTE!
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
An uncountable amount. Seriously. I have a whole bunch of notebooks dedicated to different ideas yet to be written, and I have a whole ton of notes on yet more fiction to be written. The ideas are unending!
What does literary success look like to you?
Ideally being able to publish at least once per year. That’s difficult for me, although I always have something published, whether it’s a novel, short story, or poetry in an anthology or literary journal. But I’d like to publish at least one novel per year along with other short stories and creative projects.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I spend a ton of time researching in general, some before the book, a lot during, and a lot after the creative writing is finished. My books take place in Victorian America, which can be harder to research than Victorian England, and I want every detail to draw the reader into the time period. It’s important to me that my books are saturated with the Victorian era and are extremely accurate, so I research everything from how many times per day the mail was delivered to what type of wood would be used on a dresser in a middle-class home.
How many hours a day/week do you write?
Not nearly enough. Writing isn’t my priority at the moment, my editing business is, but hopefully that will change in the future…
How do you select the names of your characters?
They’re all meaningful, and for those that don’t have Biblical meaning, there’s a reason for it. I choose Biblically significant names because of the time period and to discuss the concept of religion without discussing it outwardly. It doesn’t smack you in the face, it’s just there if you’re interested.
What was your hardest scene to write?
In my first book, Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, I have a scene that finally breaks one of my characters, and that scene was extremely hard to write. I felt terrible about what I was doing to her, as bad as if she were a real person. I actually took a month off writing to mourn what I was about to do to her, then came back and wrote the scene in one go. I was glad it was over with once it was done!
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
My favorite genre to write in is psychological suspense, and that’s what my Dark Victoriana Collection is. It includes everything I love: psychology, suspense, historical fiction, and horror. I’ve had readers call my books psychological thriller and psychological horror as well. I also write horror short stories, and they also rely heavily on what would terrify a person psychologically more than anything. I write positivity haikus and poetry because I’m actually a very positive person despite all my very dark writings! I like to dabble in all genres—I feel it expands my writing horizons and improves my craft.
How long have you been writing?
Literally since I was capable of writing. I started out with poetry, then moved straight into novels, then short stories. I also love writing haikus and micro-fiction, which I find to be the most challenging and the most rewarding.
What inspires you?
Victorian jewelry, fantasy art landscapes, hidden object games with strong ambiance, all kinds of music, art… There’s really no end to what inspires me! If I had my way, I’d write all day and night.
How do you find or make time to write?
This is the toughest part for me. I’m trying hard to make more time to write, and the only way I find that works is to set aside a reasonable amount of time per day (usually a 15 minute writing sprint) and force myself to write despite all the other things I have on my plate. The thing is that once I start writing, I usually pour out creativity for about an hour, so stopping myself is hard, and a lot of times I just end up not writing at all because of the time suck (for me, an hour is a lot of time to lose on other projects). I’m trying to develop a routine for myself to avoid that catch-22.
What projects are you working on at the present?
I have two projects ongoing: the third book in the Dark Victoriana Collection and a positivity book based on the positivity writings I do on Patreon. I do work on other things in the background, but those are my two main focuses. I can’t wait to finish writing my third novel and publish it!
What do your plans for future projects include?
A lot more books for the Dark Victoriana Collection. Originally I was going to write one standalone book, then I decided I’d write five books, now the plan is six books and additional short stories. I’m slowly developing a fantasy novel as well, but that’s way on the back burner. I have some horror short stories I’d like to pull into an anthology too. Really the amount of projects I have ideas for is never-ending.
Share a link to your author website.
You can find me at http://christiestratos.com, and from there, you can buy paperbacks directly from me that are signed, gift-wrapped, and include a personalized note. They’re great gifts for the holidays, especially since you can ask me to write the personalized note to anyone. Brotherhood of Secrets also comes with a key charm when you buy the paperback directly from my website. Best of all, the cost is exactly the same as buying a plain paperback with nothing special on Amazon.
Christie Stratos is an award-winning writer who holds a degree in English Literature. She is the author of Anatomy of a Darkened Heart and Brotherhood of Secrets, the first two books in the Dark Victoriana Collection. Christie has had short stories and poetry published in Ginosko Literary Journal, Auroras & Blossoms Poetry Journal, Andromedae Review, 99Fiction, and various anthologies. An avid reader of all genres and world literature, Christie reads everything from bestsellers to classics to indies.
Many of us experience, from time to time, the dreaded writers block, that awful feeling while staring at a blank page or screen when words do not flow but what happens when there are too many story ideas bombarding our brains? It can be just as debilitating as staring at that blankness. Bizarrely the symptoms are quite similar – crippling indecision, procrastination, and even insomnia and anxiety.
As writers we usually have numerous story ideas bouncing around inside our heads usually gleaned from something we see or hear. This may seem like a good problem to have, however, the dilemma is how do we ensure these golden nuggets are not lost or are even worth investigating? We can make frantic notes, some which, unfortunately make no sense whatsoever later on! That middle of the night scribble is so common. But timing is everything – musing over where a new idea could possibly lead, can lead to a devastating interruption to a current project. So how do we identify if this ‘new’ idea is worth pursuing without jeopardizing our current writing?
There are strategies we can employ to enable us to identify the ideas that are worth keeping – here are a few.
a) Leave the chaos of your writing space with pen and paper or recording device and go for a walk. Once you are in a new environment the most exciting and prominent idea(s) will stay with you. Write or record them and let your imagination flourish with them for a while.
b) Restrict your time on musing about new ideas by setting yourself a time limit. Even a ten minute burst of inspirational writing will ensure you get the idea down but not ‘waste’ too much time on it. Once it is written put it to one side and continue with your current project, safe in the knowledge the idea has been dealt with.
c) Take some time to really dissect the new idea. Can you envisage the plot arc, the ending, the characters? If the majority of the narrative reveals itself to you, then mark it down as your next project. However, if the idea is vague, do not pursue it – just jot down the outline and file it for another time.
d) Utilize your passion when defining whether an idea is worth reflection. If it excites you or is on a subject you feel passionate about then it should be considered in depth.
e) Get yourself an idea board. Organize each idea into genre or categories and when a new plot, character or scene comes to you place it with the other components of that particular story or idea thread.
f) Bounce your ideas off a few trusted friends or members of your writing group.
Not all ideas will make it and that’s okay. Use your internal writer instinct to guide you on which idea excites your specific Muse, the one that takes hold of your imagination and let the words flow. Story is our power and knowing which ones we are best at telling is key.
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: