A Writer’s Life: Frequently Asked Questions 5

A month ago I started a series of blogs to answer the questions I am commonly asked about when interviewed about my writing and the writing life. If you’re a start at the start kind of person, you can find PART 1 , PART 2PART 3 and PART 4 here, although, they can be read out of order.

So, time to dive into part 5:

Do you believe in writer’s block, and if so, what are your tips for overcoming it?

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I’ve never experienced it. I think it does happen for people, possibly because they get so pent up on putting down the exact right words or getting it right from the start, that they tie themselves up in knots. Expectation’s a bitch, right? I think the reason I’ve escaped it is possibly because of essential lessons I learned from my days as a performer in cabaret and theatre restaurants where it didn’t matter how you felt, you had to get up there and put on a show and give that audience your best. I also learned how to open myself up to the flow of ideas in my years of playing Theatre Sports where the main rule of improv is to always say ‘yes and’ – so no blocking of yourself or others allowed. This has taught me the following:

  • If something isn’t coming as I’m writing one novel, I turn to write something else for a while (something I can do because I’m always working on multiple projects at once).
  • I never allowed myself to sit and stare at a blank page. You can’t fix something if you don’t write something.
  • If you come up against an issue, just start to write something – anything even if it isn’t what you think will should be there. Even if it ends up not being what I need, I always find that solves the issues because even if the words aren’t the right ones, I can fix them.
  • Yes there’s deadlines and pressure, and it can often be a hard slog, but when I’m feeling it and the procrastination fairy is getting in the way, I remind myself of why I write and the joy it brings and I just start to write and fall into my characters and everything is good again.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received? The worst?

RWA logo. Used with permission. RWA

The best bit of writing advice I had was to get help. To enter comps and get a critique partner, join a writing group, join RWA, lean on writing friends – because they understand in ways that others just don’t – to get a manuscript assessment if possible. This is a lonely thing to do much of the time and often you can feel like you’re screaming into the void when things aren’t going right, so to get through, it’s important to find your writing peeps, to get others to look at your work and to listen when a number are saying the same thing.

The worst piece of writing advice is not really a specific piece of advice, more about the kind of advice that says ‘you must never do this’ or ‘you must do that’. Proscriptive advice that suggests: This is the only way and if you don’t do it this way, you’re WRONG!!!!

I thought for years I was doing it wrong because I just couldn’t seem to plot out a novel and stick to that plan because every workshop I went to said you MUST PLOT. I’m a pantser, so plotting is most definitely not my thing. I also turned myself inside-out trying not to use ‘it was’ and ‘ly’ words and ‘said’ because people said they were anathema and MUST NOT EVER be used. I now know that’s rubbish.

I think there is no piece of advice more damaging to the aspiring writer than the one that tells them in such a black and white fashion that something is wrong. Everything in moderation and with purpose is the best approach, I think – and never let anyone tell you your process is wrong. You will always be improving on your process, trying to find the best way your writing can work for you as the world changes around you, but there is no one process that is more right than any other. There is the process that’s right for you. End of advice. ?

Who are some of your writing idols?

There are so many, but I’ll just name a few:

My well-worn copy of Magician.

Raymond E. Feist – amazing fantasy world building and series arcs and a mystery element that binds everything together and drives the narrative through individual books and the series as a whole.

Nalini Singh – same as above, but with hot steamy romance and gripping emotion.

Nora Roberts – got me into romance books and she just doesn’t stop. Her characters are always real.

Anne Gracie – such beautiful, funny, touching tales with characters who always seem to do what you don’t expect.

And most recently there is MJ Scott who writes amazing urban fantasy and fantasy novels (and contemporary romance), Lana Pecherczyk who writes epic fantasy and paranormal, Daniel de Lorne who writes emotion-packed MM romance across genres, and Michelle Diener who writes astonishing Sci-fi/Fantasy (and historic romance). I am super thrilled that they asked me to join an anthology with them of paranormal/fantasy stories. The Fantasy Realms: Warlords, Witches & Wolves Anthology is coming out on November 9th and features 12 amazing writers who have all become part of my TBR pile.

Pre-order Fantasy Realms: Warlords, Witches & Wolves NOW for 99c!

I’ll finish up today’s FAQs with my little fan-girl moment/plug and with the hope that the above has helped you in some way and that you can write-on!

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