As some of you are probably aware, my current "job" is writing fiction as an independent author. Lately, instead of leading off with my Engineering Degree when people ask what I do for a living, I've been telling people that I'm a writer, mainly in the hopes that it will come (financially) true eventually. As you'd expect, there are a lot of common and uncommon questions that come with that admission. These are them:
What do you write?
Mainly fantasy fiction, science fiction, and poetry. I'm more prone to novels than short stories, but I write a healthy dose of both. Sometimes it's nice just to be able to finish something in one or two sittings, rather than over several months. Of my novels:
- The Chosen is a modern paranormal fiction tale involving vampires and werewolves. Kindle / Other
- Arnett Tanner Wants to Die is a dystopian scientific novel set in the future. Kindle / Other
- Skankarella is an adaptation of the Cinderella tale with lesbians. Kindle / Other
- Kissing Ellen King is the journalistic account of a convicted sex offender. Coming Soon!
My (in progress and untitled) Nymph Story is another modern paranormal fiction/social commentary.
How long does it take to write a novel?
There'e no set time. Stephen King tries to write two-thousand words per day which equates to 50 days for a 100,000 word novel, not including editing. I tend to binge on writing. Skankarella was written in four days and edited in another two weeks. I finished the second half of Arnett Tanner Wants to Die, about 50,000 words, in two days.
Where do you publish? How long does it take?
I use Kindle's Amazon site (Kindle Direct Publishing), and a site called Smashwords which offers e-books in enough formats to satisfy most other e-readers. The formatting process takes less than five minutes most times and going through the interface and getting the details in takes another five.
Do you plan your stories out or make it up as you go?
It depends entirely on the story, but usually somewhat. I might have a rough outline of what needs to happen, or where the story is going, but I always end up more needs to be added because I can't logically progress from one chapter to the next without it. So a 12 chapter outline might grow into a 25 chapter novel by the end of it. Usually I at least try to have 2-3 planned out in advance so I can just write without having to stop and think where things are going, but often I'll just follow the characters.
What is your favorite thing to write about?
Anything taboo, anything that seems to be left out of mainstream literature. Sex, blowjobs, masturbation, broken English (because that's how people really talk), vile thoughts, and cruelty.
I'm also partial to scenes where two characters are either on the run on some desolate country highway at night, or in some cabin in the middle of the woods hiding out.
What do you do about writer's block?
I don't really get it. Some writers just stare at a page and nothing comes, but I've never really had that happen to me. If I struggle writing the story itself, then I move to my notes and flesh out things that I want to do later on. I think a lot of it comes from wanting to be perfect the first time, which isn't really possible. Regardless of how hard you try, you're going to find stuff that makes you look like a fourth grade dropout when you go to edit. So I soldier on even when I think what I'm writing is complete crap.
I'm also not opposed to finding entire chapters unusable or not worth fixing and striking them to start over.
What genre is the easiest / most difficult to write?
Nonfiction or accounts of things that have already happened. Making things up completely off the top of my head is very easy for me. Using something that happened in my own life and having to recap it is very, very difficult. It's one of the reason I don't write (serious) game recaps in my hockey blogging exploits.
How much do you write a day?
I'm known for being an incredibly hard working writer and a pretty lazy editor. When working on a novel, I usually get at least 500 words (~400 words is a page) in a day, and often 1,200 or more. I also tend to binge, so for Skankarella which was 65,000 words and written in 4 days, I averaged 15,000 words a day. When I finished Arnett Tanner Wants to Die, I wrote something like 27,000 words the second to last day and around 15,000 the final day. If you tack on blogging, 1,500+ is probably a good number.
How much do you change when you edit?
The main story line always stays intact, though I will add, move, or remove chapters to control the pacing or flesh out something that needed more development. Some things end up being fairly well written the first time (I only edited Skankarella 2-3 times) and some things need more work (KEK and The Chosen both had 5+ edits).
What advice would you give to new and/or young writers?
Read a lot, write a lot, watch a lot, do a lot. There is a balance to be struck in gaining new perspectives via the work of others, living life, and writing your own stories.
Where do you get your ideas?
I have no idea. It sounds condescending to say they just come to me, but that's what happens. Usually they're 'what if' scenarios where I start with a single point or character and start to think about how that character would react to the world around them, what their motivations are, and so on.
Who does your cover art?
Many of them are photos I've taken, but my friends Jeff Wozniak (Arnett Tanner Wants to Die, Skankarella) and Dana Merizzi (Kissing Ellen King) have also done work for me.
What is the key to good writing?
If I knew that, I'd probably be more successful. Or perhaps that's the key to good marketing. I personally enjoy stories that craft a world one can live in, usually via vastness (think Star Trek, Lord of the Rings) more than skilled description. I think writing character that people can easily connect with is more important than anything.
What's the easiest thing about writing a novel?
The actual writing.
What's the hardest thing about writing a novel?
Editing the damn thing when I'm finished, or keeping track of things and avoiding contradictions. Did this person have a one bedroom apartment or a studio? If their brother named Jeff, Jack, or John? Little things that aren't necessarily important to the story, but make you look really bad if you screw them up.