It took some time to decide whether I would participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I have participated ten times in all and each time have created novel or novella length manuscripts. Most have been revised and edited over the following year or so to become published books. Some quicker than others it must be said. My very first NaNo in 2009 resulted in a work not published until last September! Yep 9 years. This was due to it being my first full length manuscript, my novice writing and self doubt that it was worthy of publishing. I revised and edited almost every year until I took the plunge, finally satisfied it was finalized.
However, in regard to this year’s NaNo, my first stumbling block was the two draft novels I have pending, which are previous year’s NaNoWriMo manuscripts. Again I know they need revisions and editing prior to submission to a publisher. My struggle was should I work on these manuscripts rather than create another one?
Secondly, I have several events to attend during November, which will take me away from the vital writing time needed for NaNo. As we all know every minute counts during November. Will I have enough time to succeed?
Thirdly, although I browsed the multitude of saved short stories in my laptop folders, I was not convinced any of them were novel length material. Or maybe it was my Muse not being excited enough about them – who knows? So I pondered what ‘new’ story I could write. Nothing I thought of seemed the elusive ‘it’ until just as I was drifting off to sleep an idea burst into my mind. It gave me a rough timeline, one character and the inkling of a plot. Knowing that relying on memory is a writer’s mistake when ideas pop up, I got up and wrote it all down. Subsequently, I have managed to decide on my two main characters, their location, some backstory and a timeline.
So I am as ready as I can be for 1st November. If you would like to connect on the NaNoWriMo site I’m MandyB.
It may seem like an easy to answer question but for most writer’s it is a multi faceted one. I have answered with:
Word or picture prompts
Overheard snippets of conversation
An idea popped into my head randomly
A personal interest
A topic of conversation
A couple of examples:
My children’s picture book, Rumble’s First Scare was a Halloween prompt, which I turned upside down. It is the monster’s point of view of Halloween and his first scare adventure with his Mum.
The Rython Kingdom began as a series of prompts that gelled together to form a story by pure chance.
It is not so clear cut as these to be honest but it helps a non-writer understand the creativity side of our brains a little easier.
I presented a workshop on how to formulate an idea into a novel at the WFSC writer’s conference in the spring. From that initial spark to compiling a story line/arc, creating a plot arc, introducing characters, and finding the correct conclusion for the genre. It was a fun experience.
A dream. Most of my ideas start with dreams. I am a vivid dreamer. I tweak them to make sense. My current work involves steampunk pirates and I’m collaborating with my 16-year-old daughter. She invented one of the characters so she decides what they say and do. It makes for an adventure we can share together and twists in the plot that even I didn’t see coming.
How did you come up with the title?
First it was called Evelyn of the Sea because I wanted to write about a woman disguised as a man on a sailing vessel. I want a female hero who isn’t judged because of her gender. However, I soon realized that I couldn’t write a historical novel so I made it steampunk, put Evelyn in an airship, and called it Evelyn of the Air instead. I also set the story on a different planet so I could mess around with technology, laws of physics and mythos. Airships don’t work very well on earth and I didn’t want to be limited. The best way to break rules is either off planet or magic. I do both.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I want readers to find validation, sympathy and inclusion. I want to shine a light to people underrepresented, marginalized or odd in any way. We are all a family and we should fight for our place in the world. But I don’t want to preach.
How much of the book is realistic?
My goals are to escape and entertain. I don’t want them burdened with the same problems they face in real life. I want my readers to work with their imagination. Get those brain cogs turning. Of course, the mystery of the human condition is very real. Just because the obstacles are fantastic, our reactions, emotions and instincts are still the same. So, I sneak in some sympathetic elements while battling monsters and hope the parallels and symbols are subtle but noticeable.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Authors can’t help but draw on their own experience but I try to keep my own words out of my characters minds. I ask myself what I would do in the situation and is it the same thing my character would do? If it is, I run the risk of having all my characters sound the same. I do want my characters to get into worlds I could never visit or adventures I wish I could have. So, would I want to be a pirate on an airship? Of course!
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
I really enjoy writing short stories for anthologies. I like themes on monsters. Maybe soon I’ll have enough monster stories to make my own collection. I am also an artist so I want to do an art book but I need a grant for that project. I also want to write a play. I want to see my characters interpreted by others.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
I am a feminist so I really push the female hero who is smart, invaluable and saves the day. I also have male characters who are sensitive and respectful.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
I can’t sit still so I am always starting new projects. I want to try everything. Monsters and ghosts are my favourite in horror, fantasy or sci-fi. Sometimes those monsters are the good guys or even the love interest.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
I totally understand the advantage to planning and plotting but I cannot force it out. And I’m too impatient. If a scene is rattling around in my brain, I have to put it on paper. And it morphs as I go, so I deviate from any plan I had. If I get stuck, I leave it for a few days and let my subconscious mull it over until the idea snaps into focus.
What is your best marketing tip?
Be friendly. Go to your readers for book signings, school visits and conferences. The people you associate with will be your best promoters and collaborators.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
Social media is a two-edged sword. It can kind of work, but usually it slows me down. It’s best for keeping in contact with associates and hearing about submission calls. I don’t spam people, I invite them to book signings then talk to them in person.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both?
Reading anything is always research. It can’t not be. Even if I’m just researching an author to see if I like their style to determine if I want to read more. If it’s not a good fit, I’ll stop reading. It’s simple. Everything I read gets stored away for future reference.
Do you see writing as a career?
No. It is a lifestyle. If I wanted it to be a career, I would have got my bachelors of English or journalism and applied myself to these professional labels, deadlines and salaries. A writing career involves writing for other people. I haven’t done that since school assignments. I want to let my creative side out when it suites me without worrying about paying the rent with my words. Depending on a writer’s income is hazardous. I won’t quit my day job but I will write during my lunchbreak.
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?
No. I realized early on that I binge and it’s not healthy so I stopped. I will only drink water or tea. Some of my binge worthy treats are praline trail mix, and popcorn. I try and save those things for parties.
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?
Netflix! It’s time to purge the brain. Maybe cheesecake.
Halli Lilburn was born in Edmonton, Alberta. Her first story at age nine was about unicorns and fairies. Over the years she has explored other genres including poetry, science fiction, paranormal and horror. She has works published with Tesseracts 18: Wrestling with Gods, Spirited by Leap Books, Carte Blanche, Vine Leaves, Renaissance Press and many others. She teaches workshops on creative writing and art journaling. She is a certified structural editor with essentialedits.ca and is an editor for The Dame Was Trouble, with Coffin Hop Press. Her education includes Library Operations, Art History, Creative Writing, Music and Fashion Design. She is a librarian, artist and mother of three.
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.
Today’s question is: Some writers create a bubble around themselves until they’re finished with their project – how true is that in your case?
For me, once I am writing/crafting a story the outside world disappears. I am within that world of my own creation and all external forces are forgotten. As I write the scenes play like a movie in my head, I experience the characters and their struggles.
How about you? Do you need to lock yourself away, go somewhere in particular or can immerse yourself in your story no matter where?
Last week’s question. What books do you keep for sentimental reasons?
I shared mine in the post and Pamela shared her love of Pinocchio.