Hello my bookish and writerly friends! Today I am bringing you my responses to The Confessions of a Writer Tag.
The Confessions of a Writer Tag was created by aspiring author Nicolette Elzie (aka yours truly). It is a ‘get-to-know’ the writer interview tag, dedicated to spotlighting the creative process, works in progress, and connecting to other writers.
How to participate:
- Link back to this post, so that the original rules are always accessible to anyone who is curious and wants to participate!
- Acknowledge the person who tagged you in your post.
- Tag your friends and fellow writers – it’s up to you how many!
I had a lot of fun writing out my confessions. It forced me to think deeply about who I am as a writer and also made me have to go back and rewrite my query letter, which I haven’t touched since entering Query Kombat back in May. Anyway, without further adieu, let’s get on to the questions.
Writing and I go way back. I mean way way back. I was telling stories to my stuffed animals (I am an only child, so don’t judge me! lol) from as early as I can possibly remember. I wrote throughout my childhood and when I was 11 started what was basically a female fanfic of Harry Potter. I wrote this book/series for several years before moving on to a fanfic of Morgan le Fay and then sporadically worked on it during my breaks home from college.
In college, I started off by majoring in engineering. Honestly, I probably could have done it. I am the Queen Macgyver after all. But my heart was nowhere in it. While my buddies were busy building model planes, I was busy critiquing their essays for their writing classes, and for the world of me I couldn’t understand why, they hated them so much. It wasn’t until my second semester of my Junior year (lovely timing, right?), that I decided to grow a pair and make the switch to creative writing. Rather than struggle in school, I finally flourished. I’m pretty sure for a while there my parents thought I was a dunce. But being a writer is something that is deeply ingrained in me. It is something that I have always wanted to be and have always struggled with letting out, with letting others see and with actually pursuing. But at the end of the day, a writer is what I am and it is what I have always wanted to be, and I am just now finally reaching for it.
Now to the fun part. I write Young Adult Fantasy.
In college, I wrote contemporary fiction. I learned the hard way that submitting fantasy was just not okay, there are a multitude of reasons for this, but suffice to say, if I didn’t want my ass handed to me in the next workshop I needed to up the game into literary fiction. While a little piece of my soul died as a result of not being able to write within the genre that I preferred and loved, I ended up learning a lot about writing from being forced outside of my comfort zone.
I also wrote poetry and ended up self-publishing a poetry collection in college. It is not available anywhere anymore, so don’t even bother trying to look for it, lol. Occasionally, I do open it up to be reminded of the place I was in when I wrote it, for inspiration, or just a little bit of nostalgia.
The manuscript I am working is titled “Dreamweaver”. This is a portion of my query:
Tristan is the Crown Prince of Aguillon. He is a Dreamweaver. A genetic anomaly among a nation of people cast out for their lack of magic hundreds of years ago. Caught in the middle of a war, he’s just captured the most infamous soldier in the seven kingdoms—Nix.
Nix is deadly. She is brutal. She is feared. She also has a convenient case of amnesia, and without her memory, she has just lost her only bargaining chip—information about the enemy. For her prior crimes against the crown, she faces a death penalty. That is until a band of mercenaries sent by the elves busts her out of the castle.
While on the run, Nix is haunted by flashes of memories of who she used to be and, so far, she doesn’t like what she sees. Overwhelmed by guilt for all that she has done, she craves redemption. She sets her hopes on being able to find renewed purpose amongst the elves.
Tristan has other plans in mind. Rather than hunt her down like the animal she is, Tristan thinks he can manipulate her through her dreams, and convince her to come back on her own. After all, there is no such thing as fair play in the games of war. Besides that, she could prove to be a powerful weapon against his enemies. What he doesn’t expect is for his former history with her to start to muddle things. Just how deep can he go before he is in way over his head?
Nix and Tristan come from two completely different worlds; one that detests those who do not possess magic, and one that has integrated magic with technology. Told in alternating first-person points-of-view, their stories collide, intertwining and weaving together as they fight for what they believe is right.
I started working on this project in mid-March of 2015 and have been obsessively working on it since. I had “finished” it in third person, queried (with a completely different query and direction, honestly it was a completely different novel) and then realized I was no where near finished. I was already in the middle of revising and changing the perspective to first-person when I received my two rejections from the agents I had prematurely submitted to.
I had honestly hoped I would be done with this manuscript by now, and be re-querying, but I have had a lot of lows through the revision/rewrite process and am just now recovering from that. The rewrites are finally coming along at a good pace and I am exited to turn around and revise properly so I can get this baby out there!
The very first story I remember writing was back in the 5th grade, though I’m sure there are earlier stories I just don’t actually remember them. While all the other kids were writing some nonsense about rainbows, unicorns and whatnot, I ended up writing a horror story. Horror? Me? Yeah, I’m a chicken hawk if there ever was one. Don’t know where I pulled a horror story from but I guess because I can describe terror (particularly my own) so vividly, it made for a really good scary story. So much so, that my teacher had his buddy from the classroom over take a look at it as well. I kid you not, these guys had me read this story out loud in front of the classroom. Did this scare 5th grade me? You’d think it might, considering the fact that I was an incredibly shy child and had minimal social interactions due to my severe shortage of friends. But no, I took to my first reading like a kitten to milk. I soaked all that attention up. It was from that moment that I was hooked. I knew, somewhere deep down, though I would repress it for several (and I do mean several) years, I knew that more than anything in this world, I wanted to enrapture an audience with the stories I could tell.
Creating a world of people and things that are unlike any that have existed before is by far one of the best parts of writing. But the absolute best part, the part that no one could ever take away from me, no matter how many or how few people read my work or think it is awful/awesome? Writing gives me strength. Writing gives me the courage to be who I am not. Writing give me the chance to explore all the things that I need to conquer. Writing is the risk that I take each day. Writing exposes the best and worst parts of myself, and this is the best part about writing, knowing who I am and working to become who I want to be. Writing helps me do that.
Without a doubt, DOUBT, is the worst part about writing. Doubting whether or not I’m doing the right thing, if I’ve ruined my characters, if the writing is just crap are all things that I am constantly having to combat against. I also fear, because of the doubt when it creeps in, that I will never see my dream realized, that no one will ever experience the world or characters I have built or enjoy them the way that I do. Doubt is a terrible thing to a writer, it can be all consuming and crippling. It is a nagging burdensome creature that lurks at the edges of a writer’s vision, waiting with teeth bared, ready to pounce when least expected. But like any monster, doubt can be overcome. Doubt can be defeated.
I have two. The first comes from the Leviathan Series, Deryn Sharp, the girl midshipman who isn’t supposed to be an airman but is because she’s disguised as a boy. Yep. Love her! Deryn is a really strong female lead, she is unafraid to speak her mind and she is really quick on her feet when everything around her is going to crap. She has this awesome ability to think through situations and coming up with the a solution that no one else had even considered, and not in the “I’m smarter than everyone” kind of way, in the “She’s just ballsy enough that this might actually work” kind of way. She is fast to act and because of that, she is very much a doer. I adore her soft side and I also love how she tries to ignore it because that is very in-line with her characterization. She is one of those heroines that I one day I will be proud to read and share with my daughter.
The second comes from my own manuscript. I love Malachi. He is a major secondary character and I have so much fun writing him because I know all the baggage he carries, but he refuses to talk about, yet there are times when it totally shows. I love getting to show glimpses of who he is, like little teasers reminding the reader that what we see on the surface barely skims the depths of everything he has gone through. I also love writing his dialogue, he is very tongue in cheek and is pretty jaded about life in general. He also doesn’t let the main character, Nix, get away with anything, or at least he tries to. But more than anything, I love writing his and Nix’s relationship, their banter is some of my favorite dialogue in the whole book.
I get time at work sometimes between consultations with students, so depending on the day, if there is high volume/if I stay at work for lunch instead of driving home, I can get anywhere between one to three hours during the day. But I don’t really consider this reliable time because of the potential to be interrupted by a student. So what I try to do is write for an hour to an hour and a half in the morning after I wake up and shower/get dressed for work, which on an ideal day means getting up at 5am and if I can squeeze it in, I try to get an hour at night after my husband and I put the kids to bed. Though I haven’t started this yet, I am going to start taking off early on Saturday mornings for three hours to give myself more dedicated, focused writing time. If I were to include that, then that would bring my total guaranteed writing time to 13 hours and if I don’t get swamped by hordes of students at work there is an upwards potential of 23 total hours.
I went to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and got my degree in Creative Writing. If I could go back in time, I would have started off majoring in English (as opposed to engineering) and dual majored in screen-writing because the film school is boss at USC and I would have loved to learn about that type of writing as well. I am still considering whether I should go back for the Ph.D. but if I did I would wait until both of my little monsters were a tad bit older.
At the end of the day, it has to be grammar. I spend all day helping college students with their writing, and I see all types of spelling and punctuation errors and these things don’t bother me at all. Hands down, though, my biggest beef is with bad grammar. I can get over spelling and punctuation, but if I have to ‘interpret’ what someone else is trying to say because they have poor grammar, it makes my job about 80 times harder and the focus of what we should be working on instead shifts to that, which is not my piece of pie. I’d much rather help students work on structure, organization, brainstorming, thesis construction, outlining etc., than on basic grammar.
This came from Ellen Mulholland, author of “Birds on a Wire” and it was actually advice that had been given to her that she then shared with me.
“Someone once told me not to try too hard. Tell my story as simply as I can. Let the action and characters bring the images to life; don’t rely on a thesaurus for that.”
You’re a better writer than you think you are.
If you are not reading, then you are doing yourself a disservice as a writer. Read within your genre, read outside of it. Read widely and heavily so you can see examples of what good writing is. You should be reading not just for enjoyment anymore but because you are studying these books, analyzing craft, and voice, and structure and plot. If you don’t read, how can you possibly expect to write?
Honestly, I have several bookmarks that I keep piling up with tips on craft, character creation, world-building, how to write a query/synopsis, etc. These are the ones I am always going to and subscribe to:
I like to paint and do crafts. I handmade all the Christmas gifts we gave to friends and family last year. I also love to sing and when I find the time, I sing karaoke on the “Sing!” app. And lastly, books are my life. I am always reading!
“Unravel Me” by Tahereh Mafi. The woman is a genius with her prose. I can’t get enough of her descriptions. I need to read “Ignite Me”, and I really want to, like I am dying to, but until I get all my ARCs taken care of I have to restrain myself.
I don’t watch too many movies. But the best T.V. series that I marathoned both seasons of this year was “The 100”. It had a rocky start for me, the first few episodes I found obnoxious because the characters lacked development, BUT, huge but, after that bumpy start, things got REAL! I loved it and I can’t wait for the next season. I haven’t read the books that they are based on either, and with my TBR piling up, don’t really plan to. The first season is on Netflix, so go watch it!
My favorite series of all time is definitely The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. Never before has a series made me cry more or broken my heart more than this series did.
I admire so many authors. Picking one is just unfair. For years this would have been an easy question and I would have fired off with Terry Goodkind. But now that I’ve been reading so much more, it almost seems like each new book I read I pick up a favorite author. So in no particular order, these are my current loves:
- Scott Westerfeld
- Tahereh Mafi
- Victoria Aveyard
- K.F. Brene
- Max Wirestone
- Cassandra Clare
- A.G. Riddle
- And, of course, the queen herself, J.K Rowling
I am finishing up with rewrites and will be turning back around to do some more rewrites in chapters 1-8 of my manuscript. Once I’m done with the rewrites, my focus is going to shift to revision and an emphasis on world-building, I have a tendency to focus on character/dialogue and I sort of let the rest of the world slide away to the peripherals.
I would like to be done with the first round of revisions and feedback by the end of this year. I have three amazing critique partners who are incredibly supportive and their feedback always makes my writing better. If I keep myself on track, I think together we can make this happen and get the first round of pure revision out of the way.
I am literally everywhere online. Find me, follow me, friend me. Let’s connect!
And, that, my friends, were my Confessions of a Writer. Since I tagged so many people last week after introducing this tag, I will not be tagging anyone today. However, I welcome you to do this tag and to post the link with your responses in the comments!