How do you begin a new project? Are you a plotter (outliner) or a pantser (free-writer)?
I’d love to say I sit down and plan everything out because I’m otherwise a very organized person, but my streak of chaos reigns when it comes to writing. I pants the heck out of first drafts. There are a couple projects that I’ve pondered in my head for a few weeks before sitting down to start typing, but those balance out the others where I said, hmm, it’s going to be fantasy with a female pov character, and hey, I know her name so let’s see where this goes. If I do outline, it usually happens between the second and third drafts when I’m tightening or expanding the plot.
Do you write long-hand with pen/pencil and paper or do you write on a computer?
For the sanity of everyone, I write on a computer. My handwriting is atrocious and it’s only gotten worse with age. I sometimes write notes, but have to decipher them later, so even most of my notes are done on the computer or my phone.
Do you write every day? What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?
I try to write every morning, usually from around 7-9am. I used to be a night writer, but age has resulted in me going to bed earlier and waking up earlier. Putting those quiet morning hours to use seemed like the best way of coping with my changing sleep schedule. Getting words on the page is easier for me before the work day starts and I’m thrown into all the things I must accomplish before falling into bed again.
My routine consists of going down to my office, picking up my laptop and putting my fingers on the keyboard for about two hours. Sometimes garbage comes out, but other times, it’s not half bad. The good stuff comes from editing, which is a whole different process.
Discipline is a hard thing for some of us. Maybe most of us. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve finally managed to set a schedule and keep it more often than not. As of writing this, I’m currently on a writing hiatus, refueling my creative juices after a major round of editing three novels. My hiatus spurts are usually filled with a Netflix or reading binge. This time I’m reading: currently working my way through the sixth book in two weeks. That said, I’m back to writing tomorrow.
How many drafts does it usually take to bring your manuscript to “The End” and ready to submit to your editor?
Oh my, that’s a tricky question. It really depends on the book and when I first wrote it. My first book took well over twenty years from first draft to an editor’s desk. Others vary from ten years to ten months. I like my novels to sit between drafts so I can go back to it with semi-fresh eyes. That means I’m usually working on something else for a while or juggling a few projects before I get back to it. I’d say the least amount of drafts I’ve done is three, but that was once I’d gotten to double digit book projects, where I better know what works and how to fix what doesn’t.
Are the names of the characters in your writing important? What about the titles? How do you choose them?
While my process for picking names is rather haphazard for the most part, yes, the names themselves tend to be important to the characters themselves and, on occasion, are important to the plot. Both A Broken Race and Sahmara feature characters where names are important. While in The Last God, Jane intentionally chooses and unimportant name.
As for titles, they usually hit me (with a palm to the forehead epiphany) during the editing phase. That’s where I start to see the patterns to my chaos, a theme becomes clear, or I read a line that calls out to me. Until that point, my WIPS are usually titled Book # or a main character’s name.
Who are your favorite authors? Please list a few and their titles, so we can go look for them at our local library!
There are so many great authors! Some of my favorites are Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series, Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood.
I’m a school teacher. What can you offer to help me prepare 6th graders to appreciate writing, now and for the rest of their lives?
Creative writing doesn’t have to be perfect on the first draft. My son had a hard time with that and it kept him from writing anything because nothing was good enough in his mind.
It seems like creative writing has taken a back seat (if not thrown out of the car altogether), to writing papers and every form of college prep essay out there. A first draft should be for getting ideas on the page like a sketch for a painting. Rather than getting hung up on word choices, research, and formatting, get the words on the page from beginning to end. Then go back and polish up the sentences, add in the important details and make it all pretty.
Do you ever write naked?
No, but I’m most comfortable writing in my pajamas. Good thing I write in the morning or just before bed or visitors would be looking at me strangely.
Print books versus e-books; do you have a preference, and why?
Both have their uses. E-books are great for online sales and for me when I’m going on vacation and don’t want to bring a bag full of books with me should I get the chance to read. When I’m at home, I prefer to read books I can hold. Print books are handy as an author because I can sign them. I’m also amazed that in spite of all the articles floating around about how e-books are running print books out of Dodge, I hear from so many people at book signings, that they highly prefer print.
What is your best advice for beginning writers?
Sit down and write. Just write. Don’t worry about the words if they’re not perfect, but get the story on the page. You can plan until you’re blue in the face, but you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t actually write the story. You can’t fix what doesn’t even exist.
Written by Jean Davis...
On The Shelves of The Scriptorium!